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: http://www.safekids.org/video/video-moment-silence.
For a list of safe walking tips, http://www.safekids.org/walkingsafelytips

 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

Let’s put the brakes on fatalities


By Larry Emig

Over the next 20 days, you’ll read some incredible stories from people across the state who are sharing their experiences involving a variety of traffic safety issues that will part of this year's Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day blog. Some of the stories have happy endings, and some don’t. Either way, each experience will tell a unique story.  And the insight from them will help to bring home the message of why it’s vital to reduce the number of fatalities. 
I am proud to have been a part of the national safety campaign Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day since it began here in Kansas in 2001. I’ve told the story many places both here in Kansas and elsewhere about my idea of a having a national day with no fatalities similar to and patterned after the Great American Smokeout.  Some people think we will never achieve that goal, but with new technology for engineering, educating, enforcement and emergency care, I like to think we will. In 2002, there were 43,005 fatalities and in 2012, there were 33,561.  We are headed in the right direction.
Please read all of the blogs that will be posted here daily until Friday, Oct. 10, which is the official day each year for Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day and share them with friends and family. By sharing these stories, we increase awareness, which leads to improved safety on our roadways.

Larry Emig initiated the national Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day safety campaign in 2001. Larry was the Chief of the Bureau of Local Project and retired from the Kansas Department of Transportation in 2006 and is still very active in finding ways to improve traffic safety.

Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day 2014 Blog Series

Starting Monday, Sept. 15, the annual Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day blog series will be posted on this site. A total of 20 people will share their stories each weekday, up to Oct. 10.

Please feel free to forward this link to family, friends and coworkers to help share their messages. Thanks for helping to put the brakes on fatalities.