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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