Thursday, October 22, 2020

Distracted driving leading cause of pedestrian-involved collisions


Whether a motorist or a pedestrian, all road users share the same responsibility of keeping themselves, their passengers and all other road users  safe while driving and interacting with traffic. Driving larger, heavier vehicles requires extreme caution as the risks associated with these vehicles are greater – causing damage to property and injuries or death.

Over the past decade, distracted driving has become one of the leading causes of vehicle crashes on our nation’s roads. Researchers at the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, a non-profit representing all 50 state highway safety offices, are concerned that distracted drivers are leading to more pedestrian-involved collisions.

Any action that takes attention away from the essential task of safe driving can be dangerous, including talking to others in the car or on the phone, adjusting the radio, and eating and drinking. And, sending a text message while in a vehicle on a public road is illegal in Kansas, even while stopped at a stop light or sign. Violation of this law can result in fines, suspension of driving privileges, court costs and attorney’s fees, and increased insurance rates. 

Any distracted driving can lead to a reckless driving charge and, if the incident also leads to the death of another person, vehicular homicide charges. 

Driving distracted is just not worth it. Lives are on the line and the consequences could stay with you for many years to come. 

Pay attention, because at the end of the day, whether we walk, ride, drive -- we are all pedestrians and its up to use to help keep each other safe. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Pedestrian Safety Month reminds us that everyone is a pedestrian

Walking - It’s the oldest form of transportation. For many, traveling on foot or other non-motorized vehicles, is just one of many ways that we stay connected to our communities.

This year, the Kansas Department of Transportation is participating in Pedestrian Safety Month during October. The safety campaign was created by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA).

KDOT wants to remind travelers, even if you are just moving from your vehicle to the grocery store or your home to your vehicle, you are considered a pedestrian.

While there are many actions that pedestrians can take to stay safe, such as looking both ways before crossing the street, paying attention and obeying traffic laws, there are more actions that only the driver can take — such as staying off the phone while behind the wheel, being aware of their surroundings and obeying the posted speed limit.



“Following the speed limit isn’t just the law for drivers — it is a critical component to keeping pedestrians safe,” said Jenny Kramer, KDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator.

Another way that pedestrian safety can be encouraged is through traffic calming, which uses physical design and other countermeasures to improve safety for all road users—motorized and non-motorized (pedestrians, cyclists, assisted mobility, etc.) Providing additional infrastructure to accommodate different types of transportation can calm traffic by allowing motorists to drive at desired speeds while also allowing safe spaces for other non-motorized users.

Areas where more people are likely to be walking (e.g. schools, parks, grocery stores, shopping centers, etc.) can include traffic calming features such as reducing the number and widths of travel lanes, adding bike lanes, and adding sidewalks and high-visibility crosswalks, see the example below.

 


If pedestrians and motorists can work together to travel safely, we reduce the number of pedestrians injured or killed. Because at the end of the day the next pedestrian’s life that is saved could be your own.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Notifying next of kin a dreaded duty

 

The following article was published in the Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day blog series on Sept. 27, 2018.

 By Randy Mosher

As I sit here today reflecting on my 32 years as a Kansas State Trooper, it’s hard to think of a stretch of highway in southwest Kansas that I haven’t seen a fatality accident. Through the years I have had many responsibilities and duties. The duty that I dreaded the most, and that affected me the most, was the responsibility to make death notifications to the next of kin of those who died in fatality crashes.

I have been the messenger that has changed people’s lives forever, and those notifications have changed me forever. I have been hit, called a liar and asked why more times than I care to remember.

I remember every time I have pulled up to the houses of loved ones, put on my campaign hat, practiced what I was going to say, and then the long wait for someone to come to the door. Then comes the moment where the door opens, and the person realizes that there is a State Trooper at their door in the middle of the night, and their world is going to change forever.

I have told friends, and complete strangers that their loved ones would never come home again. I have shed tears for all of them. Some right there, right then. Some, at home alone or in my car. I remember all of them. Some still visit me regularly in person, and some in my dreams.

I remember one of the crashes when I was stationed in Lakin when three teenagers were killed, and I was the first on scene. I remember the helpless feeling of not being able to help the victims. I remember talking to the entire high school where the kids went to school and telling them what I could about the accident, but most of all I remember their parents.

I remember an accident in Finney county that killed four people. I made notification to one person’s parents in Lakin and still remember the faces of his parents today. Those same parents played in a local band for years and played at the Kansas State Fair. I was working the fair when they were playing, and they saw me on a golf cart patrolling the fairgrounds. They called to me on the microphone and said they wanted to play a song for me. They explained to the crowd that I had made the notification of their son’s death and they wanted to play a song for me. That was the day that the big trooper on the golf cart cried his eyes out!

I remember one of my last notifications. I was at home taking my dinner break, when dispatch called me about a fatality crash involving a motorcycle north of Garden City. Dispatch told me the name of the person killed and my heart sank. It was a friend of mine. I went to Garden City High School with him and his wife and had worked with both in different capacities. I visit his final resting place often.

Fatality crashes affect so many people and communities.  I have been to many of the funerals of those killed in crashes that I have worked. The families and the communities are forever changed. As I reflect on these crashes I think “only if,” only if circumstances had been different and we had not lost these lives? I ask each of you who reads this to think what they can do to put the brakes on fatalities.

 

Captain Randy Mosher is the Troop E Commander for the Kansas Highway Patrol.

 

Friday, October 9, 2020

Texting friends and family can wait

Put the Brakes on Fatalities is a national campaign focused on traffic safety. Whether you are in a vehicle, on a motorcycle/bicycle or even walking, the goal is for you to safely get where you are going. The official day is Oct. 10, but it’s an important message to remember all year long.

To highlight Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day, two blogs from past years' blog series will be reposted today and Monday.

The article below was published in the Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day blog series on Oct. 8, 2018.

 By Karah Bosmeijer

It was almost the end of my senior year. Five days earlier I had joined the cheerleading team at Garden City Community college, and in two weeks, I would graduate from high school. I had just finished cheer practice and was headed home to Deerfield, a small, rural community on U.S. 50 in southwest Kansas. A list of everything I still needed to do before graduation was running through my head as I passed the U.S. 83 truck stop.

I texted friends and family, asking if they were going to attend my graduation ceremony. As I started to receive their responses, I looked up to see a semi with a flatbed trailer rolling to a stop in front of me, as the driver waited for traffic to clear so he could turn.  At 65 mph, there was little time to hit the brakes. Crashing into the flatbed was just the beginning of one of scariest experiences I have ever encountered. 

The force of the accident was great enough to destroy the front half of the car and shatter every window, but the driver of the semi was oblivious to the crash.  The semi started to turn, dragging me with it. Panicking, I honked my horn and was eventually discovered by the driver. 

There I sat, feeling the heat from the asphalt, sitting next to the rumble strips and holding a towel full of blood to my forehead. I watched as strangers, firefighters, EMT, police officers and friends recognized my car and stopped to help me. Being young and invincible, it took me years to realize how amazingly blessed I am. Thinking about how many people’s lives I put in danger, and how my friends and family could easily be dealing with my thoughtless actions in a much different way is terrifying.

Today, I work for a company that is extremely invested in their safety culture. As I learn and grow every day I am constantly reminded to TAKE TWO. Taking two extra seconds to Stop! Think! Then Act!  The three key principles that are implemented into our daily routine are:

     ·      Do it safely or not at all.

     ·      There is always time to do it safely.

     ·        Care for each other’s health, safety and security.

Ten years have gone by and I continue to be amazed by what life has to offer. I challenge anyone reading this to “Take Two” into your daily life. Take two extra seconds to send that text before you drive. Two extra seconds to buckle your seat belt. Two extra seconds to check that the intersection is clear. Two extra seconds to say I love you to yourself and your loved ones!

Safety. Always. Everywhere.


Karah (Miller) Bosmeijer is the Administrative Coordinator / Division Trainer for Nutrien Ag Solutions in Garden City.


Thursday, October 8, 2020

KDOT workers at crashes: They’ve seen the toll, they’ve felt the toll

 By Tim Potter, KDOT Public Affairs Manager in south central Kansas

Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day is Oct. 10, but it’s important to focus on traffic safety and saving lives all year long. A special thanks to KDOT workers across the state who work to maintain the high
ways and, when requested, assist at crash scenes.

Over the years, in crash after crash on Kansas highways, they’ve seen bodies covered by sheets -- and worse.

One remembers a car seat outside a mangled vehicle. It’s imprinted in his memory.

They’ve witnessed grief, up close – a woman looking for her sister.

They’re not law enforcement or rescue crews. But they are among the first responders. They are Kansas Department of Transportation crews who are asked to provide traffic control at crashes so rescuers and law enforcement can focus on the emergency and so traffic can be directed around the wreckage.

At all hours, in all kinds of weather, these KDOT workers see the toll. They experience it. From this exposure, they have a unique perspective on the importance of traffic safety.

KDOT workers across the state share their experiences as part of the national safety campaign Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day, which focuses on all types of traffic safety. Here are their accounts:

Wamego superintendent

Jeff Romine
Jeff Romine, Highway Maintenance Superintendent with the Wamego Area Shop, remembers an early morning crash that closed a highway. It took the Kansas Highway Patrol hours to document the scene. It took fire trucks a while to wash biohazards off the pavement.

As a superintendent, Romine goes to crashes to help direct his crew. “I just get up and go,” no matter the hour, he says. He tries to keep the new workers from having close exposure. 

Even when KDOT workers flagging traffic are stationed relatively far from the wreckage, sometimes they come face to face with relatives of the people injured or killed. The loved ones want to get closer. They want to talk to officers investigating. Romine remembers a husband who arrived to see about his wife. She had just died in the crash.

The man waited until an officer could break away from the investigation to talk to him. During those 20 minutes, the KDOT workers tried to gently engage the man -- without saying anything insensitive. They passed the time in small talk, Romine remembers.

After responding to so many crashes, Romine sees patterns. He learns from law enforcement some of the factors suspected in the crashes. One of the most common, he says, seems to be driver distraction. “I think the biggest thing is the cell phones,” he says. “And then, of course, the seat belts come in. More than not, they weren’t wearing a seat belt, are the ones who got killed.”

It’s impossible not to be affected, Romine says. “The worst ones to take is when you got a family involved. Because it’s just like your family. It could have been you,” he says.

“There was one where a baby got killed, and that bothered me for a long time.” He was doing traffic control.

“When I got there, there was a child seat there, outside the vehicle.”

Wellington supervisor

Kim Brownlee
Kim Brownlee is Wellington Subarea Supervisor. He recalls a fatal accident that left a long trail of debris. It was at night, so it wasn’t easy to see.

Area Superintendent Greg Dixon asked the Wellington crew to re-walk a ditch by the crash site the next day. “Because he said the family is going to want to go back out there,” Brownlee recalls.

During their check, they found a piece of human remains and called a sheriff’s deputy.

A relative of the victim learned about the recovery and voiced her appreciation, Brownlee said.

“Thank you for going back out and doing what you did,” she told him.

Topeka maintenance supervisor

David Studebaker

Dave Studebaker, Highway Maintenance Superintendent in Topeka, says distraught people show up at crash sites. But KDOT workers aren’t in a position to convey information to them. That’s law enforcement’s role. Still, the KDOT workers are often the first people that relatives approach.

Studebaker remembers helping with traffic control after one crash when a woman ran up to the KDOT workers. 

He told her he couldn’t let her move closer, for her safety.

“That’s my sister,” the woman told him.

 The woman became upset, and he told her: “I understand you.” He said he would ask for a sheriff’s deputy to come over to her. “I just got on the radio and told them to come up there,” he recalls.

In a situation like that, Studebaker says, the KDOT workers must be respectful and compassionate.

“Unfortunately,” he says, “it did turn out to be her sister.”

Altamont supervisor

Kevin Crain

Kevin Crain, Altamont Subarea Supervisor, has worked for KDOT for about 22 years. He also is a former EMT with Cherryvale Fire/EMS.

Earlier in his KDOT career, before he was a supervisor, Crain went out to set up traffic control after a multiple-fatality crash.

When he arrived, Crain recalls, “Bodies are still on the ground with sheets over them, and you have to drive around that.”

Now, he goes to crash sites as a supervisor. “A lot of times, I’ll roll up and there’s still bodies in the car,” he says.

“I tell my new employees, ‘You don’t know what you’re going to find on the side of the road, and you don’t know what you’re going to drive into. You have to be prepared for about anything out there’.”

And there’s another thing about responding to crashes, he says: “When you work in these communities, it’s a small world.

“It could be your family, a buddy’s family, it could be your next-door neighbor. You’re hoping it’s not the vehicle it is.”

Having to flag traffic at a crash site means having to work in all conditions. “I’ve flagged at midnight in heavy fog for a fatality accident,” Crain says. “We’ve done ‘em in pouring-down rain.”

Accidents happen at all hours. “When we get a phone call in the middle of the night, you kind of a wake up, and you go in ‘Go mode’,” Crain says.

When he arrives at the crash site, he talks to law enforcement to check on whether bodies are present. He wants to protect or at least prepare the crew for what they might encounter.

Depending on the highway configuration, KDOT traffic control flaggers can be hundreds of feet to 2 to 3 miles from the crash site. “We try to be as far back as we can -- you don’t want to be in the way,” he says.

“We’ll do whatever we can do to alleviate the problem.”

After reacting to crashes and being exposed to what happened, he says, a KDOT crew has to be careful not to discuss it in front of others out in the community – because you never know who might be listening: It could the loved one of the crash victim. When KDOT workers visit a convenience store or the cafĂ©, someone might ask about the wreck they just handled.

KDOT employees do not want to unnecessarily cause emotional hurt to someone. “If you work some of these wrecks, you have to be mindful,” he says. “Kind of what you see here -- what happens out on the highway -- stays here with us.” 

Being exposed to crashes “does affect you,” Crain says.

“Some of the wrecks you have to deal with over the years; you still see them clear as day.”

For him, he says, “It’s not something that wakes you up with nightmares, but it’s still something you see vividly in your mind.”


Friday, April 24, 2020

True meaning of the word service


Kevin J. Shelton, left, with his family.
By Kevin J. Shelton Growing up in the work zone. Yes, that is my story. You see, when I helped to start the company, C-Hawkk Construction Inc., I was only 19 years old. I remember opening my first set of plans and wondering, “Where do we start?”
Then my father made a statement to me, “Son, every sign that anyone will provide for this project will say the same thing, and what matters is the service that you provide behind that sign.” That has stuck with me for all of the 31 years of my career in traffic control.
I set out to try to give the best response and service that I could to that general contractor no matter the distance or time of day that a call would come into our office. I still to this day believe with everything in me how important that statement remains, but I must be honest as I write this blog about work zone safety. I believe I have learned that there are more important things that I must share.
You see as I was answering the phones and personally responding to all the calls for service and repairs, traffic switches and road closures, it became clearer to me than ever before that there are people depending upon what I do each and every day, and I am not just talking about the general contractor. Every person who drove through one of the work zones I have deployed is relying upon that work zone to get them home to their family. And then I realized that MY FAMILY was also relying upon me just as much to make it home.
Do I have personal accounts of close calls and near misses on the highway? YES I DO, and probably too many to list here. It doesn’t take too many drums knocked out of your hand while walking down the side of a roadway by a vehicle speeding by to get your attention or the sound of screeching tires on the pavement to absolutely scare you to death. That is when I decided to do everything that I could possibly do to train myself and those working with me better.
I searched for ways and ideas to make our company and employees safer from the very first day they began to work for us.  I learned through sharing those experiences of close calls and training through a great association I became involved with, ATSSA , the American Traffic Safety Services Association, which provides training, corroboration and ideas, that we could as a company do our job and do it safer.  Not only could we become safer as a company, but what we provided to the traveling public became safer as well. That is when I realized the true meaning of the word “SERVICE” that my father had been trying to teach me those many years ago. Thanks Dad!
Kevin J. Shelton is the owner/estimator of C-Hawkk Construction, Inc., in Eudora

 

 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Please pay attention behind the wheel


Kent Portenier, left, with his family.
My name is Kent Portenier and I am the Equipment Operator Specialist on the Phillipsburg Subarea crew. I have worked for KDOT for nearly 30 years and have seen all kinds of things happen on the road.
One incident that really sticks out is from about 10 years ago. Our crew was laying an overlay patch on U.S. 36 west of Phillipsburg and it was the first time we were using a new traffic control setup with a 21-cone lead-in and 6-cone taper, along with our required signage. 
I was flagging that day. About an hour into the project, I had a small pickup stopped and waiting to proceed through the work zone. I could hear another vehicle approaching, so I stepped to the center line so it could see me and the stop paddle I was holding.
As the vehicle approached the lead-in cones, I could tell that the driver was not slowing down. I started waving my sign to get the driver’s attention, but it wasn’t working. I knew then that it was not going to get stopped and was going to hit the waiting pickup in the queue. 
I took off towards the ditch just as the driver hit the corner of the stopped pickup. The driver also swerved into the ditch and fortunately missed hitting me as I was running to safety. The vehicle continued on another hundred yards are so before finally coming to a stop.
The driver said he didn’t see any of the six warning signs or 21 lead-in cones. He had to have been distracted by something to have missed all of that. Thankfully no one was hurt, but it could have been a lot worse if things would have been off by a few seconds or inches.
We never know what the traveling public is going to do when we are out working, so we have to always be as prepared as possible. New technology, such as portable rumble strips, have helped to improve safety for us, but we still need drivers to do their part and pay attention behind the wheel.