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Put the Brakes on Fatalities blog series, activities wrap up
          Thanks so much to everyone who shared stories during our 20 days of Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day safety blogs. The stories had a real impact – some of them had happy endings, and some did not. But they all gave us something to think about and remember every time we travel. And for the viewers, thank you for reading and forwarding these stories to others - every effort helps to put the brakes on fatalities.
        Here is a link to our statewide safety event and news conference that took place on Oct. 10 at the Capitol - thanks to our speakers and SADD students from across the state who participated -


Best way to Put the Brakes on Fatalities? One safe choice at a time

By Anthony Foxx

Before I get too far into my own “Put the Brakes on Fatalities” message, I want to thank KDOT for hosting this incredible series every year and for their clear commitment to road safety.
At the U.S. Department of Transportation, we share that commitment. Safety is our number one priority. Always has been; always will be.
And safety isn't just part of my job description. Safety was a priority for me when I was Mayor of Charlotte and a child who was walking with her mother was struck by a car and killed. It’s a priority for me as a father and husband. And it’s a priority for me as a driver, a bicyclist, and a pedestrian who has seen firsthand the need for greater safety.
As many readers might know, I was once hit by a car while jogging in Charlotte.
So when I talk about safety on our nation’s roads it's not in some abstract way. When I talk about safety, I'm talking about safety on the roads in my actual neighborhood, and in your actual neighborhood.  Greater safety in the very real neighborhoods where our kids play and where our daily commutes begin and end.
I’m talking about safety from the ground up and not the top down. Which is what makes this “Put the Brakes on Fatalities” series, with its many personal stories, so effective.
As Secretary of Transportation, I know full well that it’s important for large organizations to advance safety in all the ways that large organizations can.
For example, at DOT, we’re nurturing development of Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication technologies so we can reduce the impact of human error on road safety. And we’re supporting implementation of pavement surfaces and other roadway technologies to boost safety. We also conduct a wide range of crash-testing to encourage manufacturers to increase the occupant protection their vehicles provide.
We know that working with the Kansas Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies across the country helps save lives by getting folks to drive sober, put away their texting devices, and buckle up. So we do that.
And when we can fund safer infrastructure, we do that, too.
But safety also increases when you and I make our own individual safe choices, when our kids see us making those choices, and when we encourage others to make similar choices.
We increase safety on our roads when we put on bike helmets. We do it when we drive our kids to soccer practice on the weekend and make sure they see us buckling our seat belts before we put the car into gear. We do it when we're crossing an intersection on foot without having our noses in our smartphones.
How do we Put the Brakes on Fatalities? One safe choice at a time.

Anthony Foxx is the United States Secretary of Transportation


Take precautions when you can

By Jeff Colyer

In my work as a surgeon, I have seen the damage that can be inflicted on human beings from many causes. Traumatic events can cost people their lives or leave significant scarring if they are fortunate enough to survive. 
One of the things I am most passionate about in my medical practice is reconstructing complex skull and facial deformities in children. Often, my skill as a craniofacial/plastic surgeon is put to use addressing not congenital issues, but injuries from gun shots and motorcycle or car accidents. 
I am not just a physician. I am also a father and husband who understands the pain families suffer when a loved one is injured. We can’t protect ourselves from every possible source of injury, but we should take precautions when we can.
Wearing a seat belt seems like such a simple thing to do and yet many people still fail to “buckle up” when they get in a car. The simple act of wearing a seat belt may spare your life and save your family from grief and anguish. 
In a car crash, an unrestrained person continues to move at the same speed the car was traveling prior to the crash.  Without a seat belt, you are likely to suffer severe injuries from the impact and broken glass, leaving you badly scarred.
As a surgeon, I can help hide the physical scars resulting from the shattered glass of a windshield. However, I can’t correct the less visible, yet equally real mental and emotional scarring from an accident. I urge you to buckle up every time you get in a car. It really can save your life.

Jeff Colyer is the Lieutenant Governor of Kansas.


Time and time again

Joe Trifiletti, a driver for Con-way Freight and a member of Kansas Road Team, has driven a truck for 23 years. He has more than 1.5 million safe miles of driving. Joe shares a story of one of his trips below.

Although there are many things I have seen on the roads of Kansas and the other parts of America that I have travelled, one event has brought me back to safety time and time again. 
Here it is.
            On a cold December night in 2006, I was on my return trip to Wichita from Kansas City.  It was a Friday night, after a long week, I had some plans for the next afternoon with my family.  I was looking forward to going home. I was just south of Olathe on Interstate 35 when a car passed me. The driver was too close for comfort when he passed, so I backed off to give him some space. As we drove a bit farther, I noticed the car move to the left lane. No signal was given. Then the driver put on his right turn signal, and returned to the right lane. This happened two or three more times. I had become very alert and allowed more distance between myself and the swerving car. As I was thinking of alerting the authorities the car strayed from its lane again, only this time it went onto the shoulder. I was reaching for my cell phone when the vehicle abruptly overcorrected. What happened next will haunt my life and career forever. 
After following this car for at least two miles, the driver lost control. The car hit an embankment on the shoulder of the highway with the front end of the car, spun out of control and came to rest on the shoulder of the highway. I immediately pulled over to the right shoulder, and radioed to the truck behind me to call 911. Two other cars pulled over but nobody got out of their car. 
I got out of my truck, and approached the vehicle and noticed that the interior lights, as well as, the other lights of the vehicle were on. I looked in the windows of the car and saw no one in the car. The car was clean, only one window was broken, and I noticed a basketball on the floor in the back seat. I retraced my steps, flashlight in hand, scanning the area for the driver.  The worst thing you can imagine was what I found. The driver of the car did not make it through the accident. 
All of the safety devices of the vehicle seemed to work fine. The crumple zones built in to modern cars did what they were supposed to do. The engine and drivetrain broke away and were driven towards the undercarriage of the vehicle. The passenger compartment was intact and there appeared to be no damage. The one safety component of the vehicle did not do what it was supposed to do was the driver’s seat belt. It was unbuckled. I believe that had the driver buckled his safety belt, he would have survived that accident.  So when someone asks me what they should do when they enter a vehicle. My answer is obvious: BUCKLE YOUR SEAT BELT!
That was a very hard night for me, but I am sure it was harder for the family of the young man who was the driver. I hope no one ever has to deal with this type of situation, and perhaps you won’t if you buckle your seat belt.


Safety’s free, so I’m gonna splurge

By Crystal Hornseth

Around my childhood home, the phrase, “Safety's free, so I'm gonna splurge,” could sometimes be heard.  While this statement was generally delivered with an undertone of sarcasm, the message was not lost on me.  This was evidenced two weeks ago when an unfortunate child heard the same phrase come out of my mouth.
It is amazing the lengths to which society goes to get a “good deal,” and the sacrifices made, financial or otherwise, when the decision is made to “splurge.”  One only has to watch several minutes of “Extreme Couponing” or drive by Sonic during Happy Hour for confirmation of this fact.  However, it is interesting to note that before any effort is exerted to get a deal, the consumer has to be educated.  Education leads to participation, which may lead to repeated, perhaps habitual, involvement. 
This same pattern applies to splurging on safety—education must lead to participation, which must lead to the development of a habit.  Information is rarely in short supply, so the challenge then becomes garnering participation and perhaps more importantly, the transition to habitual splurging.
For the last two years, the Salina Police Department has participated in USD 305's Back to School Fair by giving children the opportunity to play Safety Tic-Tac-Toe.  Before a child can place a game piece on the board, he or she has to answer a safety related question.  It is rare that a child does not know the safest place to ride in a vehicle, when a seat belt must be fastened and if he or she needs to be in a child restraint.  Despite their correct answers, some of these same kids are unrestrained during traffic stops or at accident scenes.  Fast forward eight or ten years and these are likely the same kids who are allowing skateboarders to cling to their vehicles or are falling off racing golf carts and getting concussions.
Perhaps what is missing from this equation is a champion of safety splurging.  While I do not expect that anyone, ever, will want to repeat my corny phrase, an acceptable alternative for parents whose kids are leaving for school, work or practice would be, “I love you,” and “Don't be stupid.”  I suppose “Don't be stupid,” could alternate with, “Be safe,” or “Buckle up.”  These same parents would then be willing to penalize for unsafe actions in an effort to reinforce safety splurging.  Teachers would send their students out the door with the admonition to, “Have a good night,” and “Be safe.”  School officials, in turn, would be interested in results of the Seat Belts are For Everyone (SAFE) campaign, and encourage increased usage.  All drivers would exemplify safe driving and passengers would have the courage to speak up when unsafe activities are taking place.  Anytime safety is a demonstrated priority, it sends the message that any perceived extra effort is worth the sacrifice, despite the fact that rewards for safety splurging are more than likely to be intangible.
My appreciation goes to those who splurge on safety - parents whose vehicles do not move until kids are buckled; siblings with younger brothers in boosters in the back; middle school kids who consistently wear bike helmets; high school students who drive the speed limit; young adults who arrange for designated drivers; adults who puts down their cell phones; all who, without prompting, find alternate routes rather than driving around police and construction barricades - and to all those who encourage and exemplify safety splurging.  May our efforts encourage habits that help put the brakes on fatalities, and more selfishly, keep me from working horrible traffic accidents.

Crystal Hornseth is an officer with the Salina Police Department

Distracted Driving: Through the Eyes of a Trooper

By Sage Hill

As a Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper assigned to the Turnpike, you might expect my story to involve an accident that I personally worked. While it’s true that I have worked many horrific crashes, my personal involvement in this piece doesn’t place me at the scene of one. Let me explain.
On July 1, 2014, I was working a voluntary overtime day as part of federally funded program to enhance roadway safety during major travel holidays. Pretty early in the shift I noticed KTA maintenance crews were busy painting new roadway lines and stripes just north of the Oklahoma state line. Throughout the morning and early afternoon I stayed in the area so motorists could observe a patrol unit close to the crews, and I stopped several cars for various violations.
Later in the afternoon I was in a line of slow moving traffic passing the paint crew when I noticed a vehicle coming up from behind them very fast. The maintenance personnel were in the right lane painting, while multiple conspicuous warning signs and flashing lights directed traffic to slowly pass in the left lane. I looked at my own speed, under 40 mph, and then checked the vehicle I had been watching with radar. I was terrified by when I saw it was going 76 mph, and still in the right lane screaming up behind the maintenance vehicles.
“Unbelievable,” I thought to myself. How in the world could this guy not see all the flashing lights, warning signs, and other traffic that had slowed and moved to the other lane? As I paid closer attention, I thought I saw something in his hand above the steering wheel.
I continued to watch and observed no change. My radar gave a solid tone of 76 mph as the car was now only a short distance from the back of the rear truck in the consist of work vehicles. I was unable to warn the maintenance crew, and a very unusual sense of helplessness struck as I realized there was literally nothing I could do to change what I was seeing. Nausea began to settle into my gut and I took hold of my radio mic, preparing to place the request for additional help that I was sure I would need.
Then, with what I still believe were literally inches to spare, the vehicle jerked to left lane, narrowly missing the maintenance truck. The tone on my radar unit heaved and the display told me it had suddenly decreased speed in order to not strike the rear of the car in front of it. Swaying movements within its lane told me the driver was still trying to regain complete control after the sudden jerk to the other lane. As we passed the line of maintenance vehicles, I made an effort to calm down. Even though I was disturbed with what I had just seen- I would still need to be courteous when I stopped the driver of the vehicle.
Once we reached a safe spot past the work zone, I slowed to the shoulder and allowed the car to pass before turning on my red and blue lights to stop him. When I walked up, I saw a young man that was out of breath and had trembling hands. I was actually pretty pleased to see that he understood the gravity of what had just taken place. After making sure he was okay, I asked him what had happened. He was unable to construct a concise sentence due to his excited mental state, but nodded toward his phone that had been thrown to the other side of the car. I prepared a citation for failing to yield to a roadside maintenance crew, and soon he was on his way after assuming responsibility for over three hundred dollars in fines and the knowledge that he nearly killed himself.
The next morning I was drinking a cup of coffee in my home preparing for a day off when I saw something miserable on the news: A young woman had rear-ended a KTA paint crew in the very same area, and had lost her life as a result. Images from the scene depicted her destroyed car, and my fellow troopers that worked the crash said they strongly believe that texting was a contributing factor. All I could think about was how close the guy I stopped had come to suffering the same fate.
Driving is something many of us take for granted. We do it routinely for so many different reasons; it’s just another facet of our everyday lives that can seamlessly blend with the others. The same is true for our almost inexplicable need to be “connected” to the rest of the world. We simultaneously use our phones while we carry out countless other daily tasks, so it’s easy to allow it into our world while driving. I’m pleading with you – don’t. As a single 24-hour period in July can prove to you, the results can be horrendous.
I hope you never make us write that ticket. Even more, I hope you never make us work that crash.

Sage Hill is a Master Trooper with the Kansas Highway Patrol – Troop G (KTA)


Protect our most precious resource

By Tim McCool

Hi! This is Tim McCool. I’m a Traffic Safety Specialist with the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office. We contract with KDOT to do traffic safety education across Kansas. If some of you recognize my name, you might remember me from when I was a Trooper with the Kansas Highway Patrol. I retired three years ago to work for KTSRO. My main job is to travel around the state and instruct classes for people to become certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians, and then be a CPS resource for these people. These are the people in your communities who can work with parents and caregivers and instruct them on how to use and install child safety seats into their vehicles correctly.
Did you know that, nationally, between 74% and 90% of all car seats are installed incorrectly? Well I didn’t either until I went through this same course back in 1999. Going into this four-day class I was a parent of two children, and thought to myself “I’ve got kids, I put them in car seats! What can they possibly teach me about car seats???” Well, I was in for one eye-opening class! As a Trooper, I was familiar with how seat belts worked to hold people in their seats during a crash. That’s a good thing!
People are always safer riding a crash out safely restrained in their seat in the car. But did you know that child safety seats have to be locked into the car in order to hold a car seat from moving around just while you drive down the road? I didn’t, but it makes sense doesn’t it! Makes me wonder how my kids survived their childhood. It’s always good to have some curve in your learning curve! Needless to say, I really put my brain to work for the next several days and learned as much as I could about car seats and how they need to be installed in vehicles.
And since that time, I and about 500 to 600 other people here in Kansas, have dedicated themselves to trying to make kids safer as they ride in vehicles. As adults, it is our responsibility to keep our kids as safe as we can. Nobody ever leaves home planning to have a car crash, but they do happen, more than what we in law enforcement would like to see. And if you can make use of a local Child Passenger Safety Technician to check and see if you installed your car seat correctly, why wouldn’t you?
Our job as CPS Techs isn’t to make fun of you or point out any mistakes you may have made putting in that car seat. Our job is to work with you as a parent or caregiver and educate you as to how your car seat can be installed in your vehicle as safely as it can possibly be. Can it be confusing….you bet! There are hundreds of car seats on the market and hundreds of different vehicles they can be installed in. It’s our job as CPS Techs to make it less confusing and try to explain anything you don’t understand. We keep track of all the new technology and best practices recommended by the experts in the field. And if we don’t know the answer to a question you have, we will tell you that and then contact one of our resources to find the answer you are looking for.
Child Passenger Safety is an ongoing learning experience because it’s a constantly changing field. Someone is always trying to build a better car seat or trying to make it easier to lock a car seat into the vehicle seat. And as CPS Techs we have to keep up with all the new information out there. This takes a real dedication and not everybody is cut out to be a CPS Tech.
So, if you have a question about a car seat that you, your family, or a friend is using, please contact a local CPS Technician and set up an appointment to come in and talk to us. If you don’t know of a local program please feel free to use the following link to find a CPS Tech in your area:
Children are our most precious resource. Let’s all work together to help keep Kansas kids safe!

The excuses are numerous

By Troy Davis

During my 17 years as a police officer with the Garden City Police Department, I have talked to teens and youth groups about seat belts and the dangers of underage drinking and reckless driving. After cell phone technology improved, I witnessed firsthand the aftermath of texting while driving and distracted driving. As an Accident Reconstructionist, I have seen automobile crashes where speeding did kill someone and wearing a seat belt would have made a difference.
 As a child passenger safety technician with SafeKids, I help parents, grandparents and daycare providers decide which car seat fits their child and the best seating position in their car based on the number of family members and type of vehicle. Recently I worked with our local Boy Scouts with a bicycle safety rodeo and helmet use for young riders - adults too. I also have gone to our local senior center and talked about pedestrian safety for seniors and how to prevent falls.
Despite my efforts and efforts of others around the country, we still see people failing to make safety in and around cars a priority. The excuses are numerous, but the reality of this behavior is always the same.
The Transport Accident Commission in Australia created a video that illustrates the consequences of unrestrained drivers and occupants, excessive speed, texting and distracted driving, work zones and driving under the influence. You can watch the video by clicking here. (Please note that this video may contain images that are disturbing to some viewers – discretion is advised.)
Your help will make a difference to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries.
Troy Davis is a Senior Master Patrol Officer with the Garden City Police Department

Where ever you are

By Wanda Stewart

Stan and I were blessed with the birth of Scott Benton Stewart, Oct. 27, 1980. He was our first child - first grandson on both sides of our family.  
In an instant our lives were drastically affected by the decision of one person to drink and drive.  I was traveling with Scott, age 3 months, to western Kansas to watch my little brother’s basketball game.  We never made it to the game.
The last thing I remember was being well off the road and feeding Scott. I heard nothing nor saw nothing but she didn't see us either, hitting us full force from behind.  I was not allowed to hold Scott for the last time. I literally attended our son's funeral on a hospital gurney. The impact upon our families was devastating, an indescribable pain.  
When I share Scott’s story, I share his two favorite toys - baby toys that no longer get the love and attention of a child because of the decision of one person to drink and drive.  
We were blessed with two other children after our loss, Spencer and Staci.   Spencer at the age of 7 was told about the loss of Scott and he wrote to Scott:

Dear Scott "Where ever you are"
I just wanted to say that I'd really would like you to be on earth this lifetime And I wonder what you look like? I have seen pictures of you as a baby but I wonder what you look like now? And I wonder what you like to do …like play baseball or basketball or read or write. Well I like to do all that stuff. And I am your 7 year old brother. And I know only your Spirit or God can answer those questions. Your brother Spencer Stewart

I started as an advocate for safe and sober driving because of the loss of Scott.  I continue because of our children and now grandchildren - as stats show our job is not over. A multitude of similar senseless deaths and injuries are still occurring.  

Wanda Stewart is an advocate for traffic safety from El Dorado

A Busy Week

By Roger Dahlby

As a trained firefighter and EMT volunteering for our local fire department, in combination with my KDOT experience, I have seen how important safety measures can be in preventing more serious injuries from a vehicle collision.
In fact, I saw several examples all in one week about six years ago. First, I went to the scene of a violent accident at an intersection where two vehicles collided. Both vehicles were damaged, but the smaller vehicle’s nose was completely crushed. All the occupants were standing by their vehicles when we arrived. None of the occupants of the vehicles wanted medical attention or to go to the hospital. Even the lady in the smaller car denied medical assistance after we asked all the questions to see if she was making an informed decision. My favorite question is; “Mam were you wearing your seat belt?” Sure enough the answer was, “Yes.” I had to believe her as I would have expected much worse injuries without it.
A few days later, I arrived at another bad accident on Auburn Road. A large work truck rear ended a stopped turning car.  The trunk with most the back seat was crushed in.  Back seat un-survivable.  I found the driver of the car standing next to her car.  She had to climb out the window to get out.  I noticed a small cut on her neck which I began treating. I asked all the questions such as, “What day is it?” And my favorite, “Were you wearing your seat belt?”   She said, “Yes I always wear my seat belt.” I’m sure she was because if she wasn’t, the secondary thrust of the occupants in a rear end collision forward to the steering wheel or dash can cause severe injuries. This woman took much convincing to go to the hospital as she stated she felt fine. The thing that I think convinced her was the object that cut her neck was best guess the gas tank! With no question, the seat belt along with all the vehicle’s designed crush zones helped.
On Saturday night I went to another crash call and found a car had hit a guard rail. The rail slightly folded up nicely and the car looking like it had only bumper and grill damage. The guy inside was much different - bleeding from the head with bad neck injuries and the tell-tale spider web on the window where one has to bet his head hit, indicating no seat belt. The crack on windshield even wasn’t that bad, even the door opened on the car.
But, our patient wasn’t answering the questions well and with a slurred speech, which indicated a possible brain trauma. We had to put a lot of equipment on him - neck brace, back brace, and spine board - and rode emergent to the hospital. 
I was already convinced seat belts are worth their weight in gold but this particular week put it indelibly in my mind.  I have no illusions that seat belts can save everybody and that sometimes luck or divine intervention just brings people through incidents like this. But let’s hedge our bets and wear them knowing they make us safer. 
If you don’t wear them for yourself, wear them for your passengers and loved ones. Believe me when I tell you that in some crashes, occupants in the vehicle roll around in there like pin balls and can hurt their friends and family in the seats around them. It has happened. 
Not enough? Well, the first responders and many times KDOT employees remember these accidents, and the worst ones stick in our minds like it was yesterday. I for one don’t want to see any of you riding away in an ambulance, a helicopter, or God forbid, a hearse.  Wear your seat belt and drive safely.

Roger Dahlby is an Engineer for KDOT and a Mission Township and Dover Fire Department First Responder


One distraction is all it took

By the Kansas Highway Patrol
       Three feet - that’s all the distance there is between your car and the one next to you as you travel down the highway.  That doesn’t leave you much room to react, and driving while distracted shortens your reaction time even more.
       One distraction is all it took.
       On March 25, 2014, Kansas Highway Patrol Master Trooper Da’Von Brame was pulled over along I-35 doing a Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance inspection on a truck. He was sitting in his patrol car when it was rear-ended by a pickup travelling at 67 mph.  The impact from the vehicle pushed his vehicle into the truck he was inspecting.
       The driver of the pickup never hit his brakes and was cited for failing to maintain his lane of travel.
       Trooper Brame spent four days in the hospital and six weeks in physical therapy from the injuries he sustained in the collision.  He is currently back to work on the road.
       The informational card above was created by the KHP. One side shows how close a Trooper can be to traffic and the other shows the crashed vehicle Trooper Brame was sitting in.
       Move over for law enforcement and highway workers.


See Tracks? Think Train!

By Jim McKeel

When approaching a railroad crossing, the first thing a driver will see is a round yellow warning sign.  As the motorist gets closer to the crossing there will be a white “crossbuck” sign just a few feet before the railroad tracks.  Being white in color, the “crossbuck” sign is a “regulatory sign” and it means to yield the right of way to the train.  The crossing might also have red flashing lights and gates that activate as a train approaches the crossing.  The flashing red lights, when activated, require a motorist to stop before crossing the tracks and only proceed if and when it is safe to do so.  If a train is an imminent danger, the motorist must stop and remain stopped until the train has passed.  If the crossing has gates that lower when a train is approaching, it is illegal to proceed across that crossing when the gates are coming down, are in the lowered position, or are in the process of going back up.  A driver should make a habit of slowing down and looking both directions down the railroad tracks as they approach any railroad crossing to see if there might be a train approaching.  “See tracks?  Think train!
A train can be travelling in either direction down a set of railroad tracks at any time.  An Operation Lifesaver saying is “anytime is train time.”  Trains are large and heavy vehicles.  They could be a mile long and weigh as much as 12 million pounds.  If that train is travelling around 55 miles per hour, it can take a mile or more to get that train stopped.  The train cannot swerve to avoid a collision.  It goes where the tracks take it.  The only thing the Engineer on the train can do when he or she notices that a collision might occur is to apply the brakes and hope that the motorist will see the train and react accordingly to avoid the collision.  Unfortunately, with the long distance required to stop a heavy train, by the time the Engineer sees an obstruction and applies the brakes, it may be, and probably is, too late to avoid striking that object if it does not get out of the way of the train.
Complacency is another factor in many highway vehicle/train collisions.  Would you believe that most of these collisions happen within 25 miles of the driver’s home?  Of course that is where they do most of their driving, but the driver also crosses familiar crossings near their home many times and most of the time they may not see a train on those tracks.  The driver becomes complacent over time and they get to the point where they don’t expect to see a train.  They don’t actively look for a train as they approach the tracks.  Then, one day, there is a train, they don’t see it, and a collision occurs.  The occupant of a car is 20 times more likely to die in a collision with a train than in a collision with another motor vehicle.
A person walking along or crossing railroad tracks is too often struck and killed by a train because they were distracted by listening to music with headphones or talking/texting on their phone or perhaps while riding an ATV or motorcycle on railroad property.  Did you know that the property along railroad tracks is private property owned by the railroad company?  It is, therefore, illegal to be on that railroad property unless you have permission to be there.  That person could be charged with trespassing; or worse yet, could be severely injured or killed if they got in front of a moving train.  The only legal place to cross railroad tracks is at a public street or pedestrian crossing.   

Jim McKeel is a retired law enforcement officer, an authorized volunteer with Operation Lifesaver, a member of the Kansas Operation Lifesaver board of directors and a railroad Conductor and Locomotive Engineer.

Always wear a helmet

By Gary Ficklin

I have two short accident stories I would like to share.  The purpose of sharing these stories is to encourage other bicycle riders to always wear their helmet!
            The first accident happened while I was riding locally on a residential street.  A friendly dog came out of its yard to greet me and ran past on the right side going in the opposite direction, then made a U-turn behind me and ran up beside me on the left.  About that time, the owner called the dog from a house on the right side of the street.  The dog responded by running directly in front of my bike to return home. 
My front wheel caught the dog directly in the ribcage.  I lost control of my bike, went over the handlebars and hit the pavement.  I got up to find that I had numerous abrasions and a slight headache.  I knew that I had hit my head on the pavement, so when I returned home later I checked my helmet.  I found that it had been cracked.
            The second accident happened on an organized bicycle ride with hundreds of other riders.  A friend and I were riding along on a major highway and pulled up behind a couple of other riders who were going somewhat slower than we were.  We decided to pass, and my friend led the way.  As we passed, I looked over at the other rider to exchange pleasantries.  I didn't notice that my friend had slowed to do the same.   I looked back about the same time my front wheel clipped my friend’s rear wheel.  I lost control again and hit the pavement in the opposite lane just over the crest of a hill. 
This time when I got up, I was a little groggy.  The other riders who stopped to assist noticed the whole side of my helmet was broken and hanging by the strap.  I was fortunate in two respects:  one, that I was wearing a helmet and that it absorbed most of the impact instead of my head, and two, that a car did not pop over the hill while I was lying in the middle of the highway.
I'm not sure if wearing a helmet during either of these accidents was a lifesaver, but I am sure that I would have suffered more serious head injuries if I had not been wearing it! 

Gary Ficklin is an Environmental Scientist II with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment


Too Close

By Cody King

KDOT Equipment Operator Cody King shares a story about an incident that took place and shows why safety on our highways should always be the top priority.

            I started off the day mowing down by 399th street on 69 highway. While mowing the mower had a malfunction, so I called my supervisor to let him know and I started the drive into our shop on the shoulder. While driving, I had my strobes on as well as my running lights and my flashers. I got ready to go across the 303rd bridge on 69 highway and like always, I looked into my mirror to make sure no one was in the lane closest to me.
 When I looked up, I saw a semi-truck crossing the white line onto the shoulder behind me and it wasn’t slowing down. At this point there was nowhere for me to bail off the highway because I was next to the guard rail. The semi side swiped me and I bounced between it and the bridge rail as it and I went across the bridge. Many different scenarios could have happened then but luckily the driver of the semi and myself were not harmed.
After I got to the other side of the bridge I pulled off and called my supervisor on the radio to let him know what had just happened, also I got out and removed the debris from the highway. As I walked back to the tractor and mower, I looked them over for damage. The semi had only hit one of the axels on the mower and had rubbed the left rear tire. All in all, the tractor and mower weren’t badly damaged. Like I said before, luckily the driver of the semi and myself were not harmed.
This accident has made me more aware while working on the highway. I always make sure to wait farther back before crossing a bridge and I always double check to make sure the lane is clear. My goal is to make sure me and my co-workers get home safely every night, so I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure I am safe and to make sure they’re safe while we’re working.  


The Reality of the “If Only”

By Ryan Murray

             Summer 2005, back in my small western Kansas hometown, I was eager to start my career in the medical field. I developed a passion for the emergency department and receiving trauma patients. Obviously a lot of those trauma cases are a result of motor vehicle accidents. Living in small town America there is a high probability you personally know the patient entering those doors, sometimes encountering a friend, family member or coworker.
           Therefore, the devastating consequences are noticeable long after and beyond the emergency room. I started to take notice that almost every case had mention of a “if only.” If only they had worn their seat belt, If only they were paying attention, if only they were not texting, and the list goes on.
            In 2010, I started my current position in emergency services, and the “if only” was present even more. While working on scene of motor vehicle accidents, I started taking notice to traffic passing by the scene and how distracted some were. I started thinking if only they knew their actions are the very same that led to this accident they are driving around.
            Hearing the “if only,” witnessing a survivor’s long recovery, or the notification of a fatal accident to the victim’s loved ones, all lead us to a reality check into our own driving habits and safety. Today with every click of the seat belt is a memory of if only they had, every time the phone rings while driving is a thought of if only they had not answered. Put the brakes on fatalities and don’t allow the “if only” to prevent you from arriving at your destination safely.

Ryan Murray is the Director of Cheyenne County Emergency Services and the Kansas County Emergency Manager for Cheyenne, Rawlins and Sherman counties

Slow down and move over when approaching emergency vehicles!

By Marilyn Goodheart 

In 2000, House Bill 2641 was signed into law requiring drivers to slow down and move over near stopped emergency vehicles. This bill is known by many as the “Goodheart Law.”  This law has proven to reduce the number of emergency vehicles and officers being struck while stopped on the side of the road.  I would like to tell you why this law is important to not only me, but to all loved ones of law enforcement, emergency and roadside workers.
My husband, Dean Goodheart, served the citizens of Kansas as a Highway Patrolman for 23 years.  In choosing this profession, he was well aware of the dangers but loved to help people.  In 1995, after 23 years of service, my husband and I were looking forward to his approaching retirement.  Our retirement plans included travel and spending time with our family. 
However, one early morning in September of 1995, life changed. That morning, my husband was headed to do Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) inspections out of town for the Kansas Highway Patrol. On his way east on I-70 he observed a semi and decided to stop behind the vehicle, turn on his emergency lights and perform a roadside safety inspection on the semi. During the inspection he stepped down from the driver’s door of the semi cab when he was struck and killed by a passing motorist.
The driver had been driving all night to return to college. This crash could have been prevented had the driver slowed down and moved to the far lane and away from the emergency lights. It is a known fact that sleepy drivers are as dangerous as drunk drivers. The “Move Over” Law had not been in force at that time. 
This one moment in time caused my family’s life to change forever. I lost my husband and best friend of 15 years. My children and grandchildren lost a great father, grandfather and mentor. Two grandchildren and all three of our great grand-children never had the chance to meet their Granddad.  He is missed by family, friends and co-workers and at all functions in our life such as graduations, weddings, holidays and school activities. He was 49 years of age at the time of his death.
Please give the officers room to work so they may go home to their families at the end of their shift!

Marilyn Goodheart is Past President of Kansas Concerns of Police Survivors

A Moment of Silence

By Cherie Sage

Fifteen-year old Christina Morris-Ward was only two blocks from school that Halloween morning in 2012. A typical teenager, Christina was dressed in dark clothes and wearing headphones.  But as she glanced down at her phone as she crossed the street, an oncoming car struck and killed her.
When we think about pedestrian safety, we often think about our younger children.  But you may be surprised to learn the most at-risk age group for pedestrian injuries has shifted since 1995 when 5-9 year olds sustained the most injuries, to today when teens are at greatest risk. Today, the death rate among older teens is now twice that of younger children. In the last five years, injuries among 16-19 year olds have jumped 25 percent over the previous five years. Today, 14-19 year olds account for half of all child pedestrian injuries. This is an alarming trend.
While walking safety has improved overall for children, there are still a staggering number of children hit by cars. More than 61 children are injured every day severely enough to seek medical attention. More than 500 children are killed every year in the U.S. 
One cause of this disturbing trend is distraction. A study conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide and supported by FedEx showed one in five high school students and one in eight middle school students cross the street while distracted.   Thirty-nine percent of the students who are crossing the street while distracted are typing on a cell phone and 39 percent are listening to headphones. The remaining students are talking on the phone (20 percent) or using another electronic device, such as a tablet or game (2 percent).  The study also found from discussions almost half of the students (49 percent) say they use a cell phone while walking to school. Four out of 10 say they listen to music while walking. Interestingly, while teens are at the greatest risk for pedestrian crashes, only 22 percent of students say it is kids their own age who are most likely to be hit by a car while walking. This distraction and a misperception of risk can lead to deadly results.
With approximately 75 percent of 12-17 year-olds owning cell phones, it’s important to talk to your children about putting phones away and paying attention when walking.  Mobile devices are part of everyday life, but we should remember that putting them down when crossing the street can be the difference between life and death.  In memory of Christina and all those who have been killed or injured while crossing the street, Safe Kids launched the Moment of Silence campaign. It’s easy to participate: simply commit to putting your device down and paying attention when crossing the street. For more information about the campaign, watch this video:
For a list of safe walking tips,

 Cherie Sage is the State Director for Safe Kids Kansas

Always remember smaller roadway users

By Brian Hirt

I was on my lunch break when I heard a call come out from dispatch regarding a serious injury accident that occurred in our city.  I quickly headed to the scene as I was the shift sergeant working on the street that evening. I arrived on the scene and was briefed by officers.  I saw that a car had pulled out in front of a motorcycle and the car had failed to yield the right of way at the stop sign.  The damage was so severe to the car that it spun the car over 180 degrees and there was severe crush from the motorcycle impact.
I saw the motorcycle driver being loaded into the ambulance and recognized him as one of my friends that I know from off road motorcycle racing. He was in his early 20s.  EMS was quickly trying to stabilize him for transport.  A short time after they arrived at the hospital I went there to see how he was doing.  When I arrived, doctors were working on him trying to revive him.  Their attempts were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead. 
His parents arrived just as he was pronounced dead and brought to the emergency room.  They were beyond upset.  They couldn’t even stand up after learning that their son was dead.  Many of his friends had gathered in the emergency room.  I knew many of his friends as the off-road motorcycle family is a fairly tight group.  I spoke with one of his friends who was also a good friend of mine.  It was terrible to have to tell him how it happened.  He was riding at an excessive speed based on the evidence at the accident scene and witness accounts. 
The driver of the car was a young driver that did fail to yield to the motorcycle, however there was no doubt that excessive speed contributed to this collision.  Not only is a motorcycle more difficult to see, but by travelling at such an excessive speed in a residential area, it makes a motorcycle even more difficult to see. 
I have seen too many motorcycle collisions where speed has been a factor in a collision that led to a fatality.  Many times people are more concerned with who is “at fault,” when many times it is a combination of both drivers.  I am an avid motorcyclist and I also work a part time job as a motorcycle driver’s education teacher with the local community college. 
I try to stress the importance of motorcyclists being defensive and to expect not to be seen by automobile drivers.  I want motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians to understand the importance of being defensive and vigilant no matter who has the right of way.  They are vulnerable and will ultimately pay the price in a collision with an automobile no matter who is “at fault.”  I try to educate automobile drivers to tell them look for motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians.  If they look for them there is a better chance they will see them.  Normally a person looks for a car only and forgets about smaller roadway users.  

Brian Hirt is a Sergeant with the Hutchinson Police Department’s Traffic Bureau


The Man in the Red Shirt

By Jessi Scott

I remember the morning of April 12, 2006 so clearly. I woke to the sound of knocking on the door and immediately noticed that Michael wasn’t home. I went downstairs to find two policemen and another man at the door.  The other man wore a red shirt and in white cursive the title of “Chaplain.” I did not notice that title until he asked me to sit down on the couch. I could literally hear my heartbeat as the anxiety of the moment seemed to boil over in the room.
The man in the red shirt proceeded to tell me why they were there. My boyfriend, the man I loved and planned to marry, had been in a wreck early that morning. He was in ICU. Chris and David, both friends of ours, had not made it. They had been killed instantly by someone’s choice to drink and drive. 
When the words came out of his mouth, I was changed instantly. The na├»ve twenty-something I had been disappeared and my life began to play in slow motion. I knew almost immediately that someday I would share this story which later in life led me to Victims’ Impact Panel of Oklahoma and the career I have today. However, it would take some time to get to that point.
At that moment, and in the following years, my life seemed to spiral. I began to fear constantly that someone else would die; every emergency siren put me on high alert. Every night brought vivid dreams and all too often nightmares about my friends.  I clung to the last moment I had seen David and pleaded with God to tell him all the things I hadn’t said. If only I had known … I couldn’t believe I had hugged my friend for the last time.  At one point, months later, I followed a man out of a restaurant calling out to him, “David, David...” I could have sworn it was him. 
I visited with the families of my friends and watched them fight terribly to just simply survive the loss of their cherished sons. David’s mom came home from identifying her son and grabbed onto us. “I should be paying for a wedding, not a funeral.”  Her words still echo in my head and the look on her face, defeated and broken, still gives me chills.
I have been both blessed to keep David’s parents close to me over the years and heartbroken to watch their continuing struggle to find their place in the world as part of the “club” of parents who have lost their children. Our friends, including myself, still struggle daily to survive the loss.
Three and a half years after that fateful day, we stood in a courtroom and watched as the drunk driver was convicted of two counts of intoxicated manslaughter. He was sentenced to prison and taken away in handcuffs. 
His family cried, screamed; it was heart wrenching to watch their pain. I knew that his life would never be the way that it was before and my heart hurt for him. His dreams had been lost in the second my friends died. His one decision had changed everything, for everyone. I couldn’t believe it had come to this for him. He was a man I had loved, planned to marry…the drunk driver was my boyfriend.

Jessi Scott is the Regional Director of the Victim’s Impact Panel of Oklahoma

Nothing Can Prepare You

By Terry Webb

As a Fire Fighter and an Advanced EMT, I've spent over 30 years helping people in need.  I've been there to welcome in a new life and there to hold the hand of ones departing.
I’m here to say nothing can prepare you when it’s your turn.
Around 2 a.m. on May 8, 2005, my wife and I awoke to our daughter saying, “Dad there is a cop on the porch.”
Knowing our son had left the day before headed back to his home I never gave it a second thought it might be about him.  The officer handed me a note with a phone number on it for a hospital in Colorado Springs, Co., and said, “Your son was in an accident, you need to call this number ASAP.”
My heart dropped.  With some difficulty I dialed the number and spoke to the nurse.  She told me our son was involved in a one-vehicle, end-over-end rollover and we needed to come as soon as we could.
My wife and I, along with our daughter, left a few minutes later and drove the five hours from Dodge City to Colorado Springs. When we arrived, we were told our son had been the driver of a pickup which went off the road and rolled about three times end over end. He was ejected from his Toyota truck and landed about 25 yards from his vehicle on the highway.  My wife and I, both being EMTS at that time, knew he would be beat up and skinned up horribly from being ejected. They went on to tell us he had a partial collapsed lung and a few cuts.
My wife was upset with him for not wearing his seat belt and so very glad he was still alive all at the same time. Preparing for the worst we entered the room. We were shocked to see how well our son looked, a small cut to his shoulder about an inch long, another cut about the half that size to the top of his head and a final cut or scrape to his left shin. 
My wife asked the nurse again if they were sure he was ejected, she said yes.  With that my wife pulled Jeremy's hospital gown open and looked at his lap, chest and shoulder.  The nurse asked her what she thought she was doing. My wife stated, "We taught our kids to wear seat belts. I’m a Kansas EMT and I’m looking for bruises."
She then took a deep breath and smiled and proceeded to show the nurse the bruises on his hips and across his chest where his belt had held him tight.  Stunned, the nurse looked at us and said, “I’ll be darned, there are bruises there.” Then our son opened his eyes and said he had his belt on, and after the wreck he walked to the road where he thinks he passed out.
Jeremy’s recovery was not an easy or quick one by any stretch. And by the photos we took of his truck, he is one extremely lucky young man. His living hung on one simple act - that of having his seat belt on. For us the story could have ended much differently. My wife and I thank God every day that we taught our kids to buckle up. In turn God has rewarded us with our son and his wife along with four beautiful granddaughters.
Folks, in my 30+ years in the fire and EMS field I can say for a fact seat belts and less distractions like texting and talking on a cell phone has helped to save many lives.
I have witnessed the other side of that story too many times. I've picked up the lifeless bodies of children whose only crime was having a parent who didn't make them wear a seat belt. And I have also picked up the bodies of friends - many had said they are a safe driver, they didn't need a damn belt. In almost all those cases one simple step, one simple action could have saved their life,
Buckle up and teach your children the reason why they should buckle up all the time, every time no matter how long or short the drive. Let them know it’s not a punishment but because you love them and want them here for a long time to come.

Terry Webb is a retired Fire Fighter and Advanced EMT in Dodge City