Thursday, October 19, 2017

Throwback Thursday: How roads were made in 1887

Ever wonder how roads were made before modern machines? 

Let's go back 130 years in time to 1887. In this photo, we can see old paving steam rollers laying down new roads in Topeka. Back in this era the roads were made using cobblestone and bricks, beneath the larger rocks, there was a base layer using sand. In some towns across the state, we can still see evidence of those cobblestone streets. 

Our asphalt pacing processes have changed over the years from thick overlays to thinner ones. Today, road crews use paving machines to lay down road surfaces. In this photo, an asphalt paving machine is using a thin hot mix overlay. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Preparing for winter weather: KDOT employees participate in snow-fighter training

Sunshine will soon be replaced by snow and when that happens, the Kansas Department of Transportation will be ready.

 In preparation for the upcoming snow and ice season, KDOT Equipment Operators from across northwest Kansas completed Snow-fighter Basic Training last week in Wakeeney.

KDOT Equipment Operators from across northwest Kansas took part in the snow-fighter training last week in Wakeeney. 
This is the fourth year the training has been held. Sessions were led by experienced KDOT operators and consisted of both classroom and hands-on activities. KDOT equipment operators learned about plowing procedures, chemical application, front and wing plow usage, spreader operations, towing safety, mechanic training and decision making. 

Earlier this month, crews in north central Kansas also participated in snow-fighter training. All new Equipment Operators, Equipment Mechanics and Engineering Technicians from the area received both classroom work and hands-on training. 

KDOT crews practice using maneuvering the snow plow earlier this month at the Salina Subarea.

So when the precipitation starts, your local KDOT operators will be on the job. No matter what the weather is doing, you can check out for traffic and road information. 

KDOT crews underwent snow-fighter training earlier this month in north central Kansas. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Building bridges: I-235/U.S. 54 work continues

Construction crews closed I-235/U.S. 54 during the weekend of October 6 to install twelve 120-foot bridge beams over traffic lanes. The work took three days. 

Part of the challenge of building a two-lane flyover ramp at a major interchange in a metropolitan city is installing the bridge beams over multiple lanes of traffic without dropping them on cars.

To prevent that kind of catastrophic event, construction crews in Wichita closed U.S. 54 under I-235 and I-235 over U.S. 54 during the weekend of October 6. Twelve 120-foot steel bridge beams were installed over traffic lanes during the three days.

Construction crews closed I-235/U.S. 54 during the weekend of October 6 to install twelve 120-foot bridge beams over traffic lanes. The work took three days. 

The beams will support the southbound I-235 ramp to eastbound U.S. 54. Similar closures at the interchange are planned in 2018 as this ramp progresses and when more beams are installed in the area for the new northbound I-235 ramp to westbound U.S. 54.

Construction crews closed I-235/U.S. 54 during the weekend of October 6 to install twelve 120-foot bridge beams over traffic lanes. The work took three days. 

The first phase of the I-235/U.S. 54 interchange reconstruction includes the building of seven new bridges and the repair or widening of ten other bridges. Work on the interchange improvements began in November 2015 and is on-schedule for a summer 2019 completion.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Fly Kansas Air Tour 2017 a soaring success

Forty planes and fifty pilots participated in the 3-day Fly Kansas Air Tour. 

Amelia Earhart once said, “…The lure of flying is the lure of beauty, and I need no other flight to convince me that the reason flyers fly, whether they know it or not, is the aesthetic appeal of flying.”

More than 1,200 students and members of the public had the opportunity to view 40 planes that participated in the 2017 Fly Kansas Air Tour.  

A Pilot demonstrates the controls to a student during the Fly Kansas Air Tour.

At least 50 pilots and their planes began their 10-stop journey on Sept. 28 in Wellington. The tour, which was presented by the Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education (KCAE) and KDOT focused on encouraging STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and highlighted the benefits of local airports to smaller communities. 

Students react to the various aircraft that took part in the Fly Kansas Air Tour. 

This is the fourth consecutive year for the revived Fly Kansas Air Tour. The first incarnation of the tour took place in 1928, and its goal was to promote the fledgling aviation industry in Kansas. While this year’s tour still promoted the aviation industry in the state; Ed Young, President of the KCAE and the Fly Kansas Foundation, said that it also helped spread the message that aviation is for everyone.

Merrill Atwater, KDOT’s Director of Aviation, said that it’s important to recognize the important role aviation plays in Kansas.

“Aviation generates over $20 billion to the state’s gross domestic product,” Atwater said. “Kansas has such a rich history of aviation and it is important for us to celebrate this industry and who we are as Kansans.”

Atwater said it is important that local communities with airports understand the asset that they have and that aviation is a career path.

A row of planes that flew in the Fly Kansas Air Tour.
“Each community should know what role aviation plays locally and how it helps drive the state’s economy,” Atwater said.

The tour made stops in several communities in Kansas: Wellington, Liberal, Dodge City, Hays, Concordia, Atchison, Olathe, Pittsburg, Independence and it wrapped up in Benton on Sept. 30.

“We are humbled to have such a support for the Fly Kansas Air Tour,” Atwater said. “The KDOT Aviation staff did an outstanding job on delivering an incredible experience to all involved.”

Check out our recap video of the Fly Kansas Air Tour!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Real time truck parking availability signs along I-70 on list of approved September lettings

An example of the Truck Parking Information Management Systems (TPIMS)
A project that will provide real time information regarding truck parking availability at rest areas along I-70 through the use of roadside signs and an electronic data feed was one of the projects included in the Sept. 20 KDOT construction letting.

KDOT is participating in the Regional Truck Parking Information Management Systems (TPIMS) along with seven other states in the Mid America Association of State Transportation Official (MAASTO) region. Custom Lighting Services LLC DBA Black and McDonald of Kansas City, Mo., is the prime contractor on the $3,083,462 project.

To see all of the projects in the Sept. 20 letting, click here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Kansas youth use creativity to focus on improving traffic safety

These artists don’t need a driver’s license to understand what it means to practice safe driving.

During the weeks that led up to the Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day, children from across the state were encouraged to illustrate creative posters that would educate drivers about traffic safety.

More than 1,000 young artists submitted their designs to the Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day poster contest and Nora Ackermann of Andover, Austin Lamb of Osage City and Alyson Welch of Overland Park are the statewide winners.

Nora Ackermann of Andover is a statewide winner in the 5-7 age group.

Each of the winning artists were first selected as a regional winner and they will each receive a bicycle and helmet donated by Safe Kids Kansas at individual presentations that will take place at their schools.

Austin Lamb of Osage City, is a statewide winner in the 8-10 age group.

Each student will also receive a Kindle Fire tablet from the Kansas Turnpike Authority, a $50 gift card from the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association of Kansas, a $50 gift card from Wal-Mart and movie passes from AAA Kansas.

Alyson Welch of Overland Park, is a statewide winner in the 11-13 age group. 

More than 50 entries from teens in 25 Kansas schools were received in the annual video contest. Kansas teens were asked to submit traffic safety videos up to a minute in length.

Students from Eudora High School won first place. The class will receive their choice of an iPad, GoPro or Osmo Steadicam along with a $500 donation to the school.

 Andrew Tabb from Shawnee Mission West High School captured second place. Kodi Rogers and Aly Tarrango from Scott City High School placed third in the video contest. Each will receive one of the remaining prizes listed above.

You can view all three of the winning videos here: 

KDOT, along with the KTA, the Kansas Highway Patrol, AAA Kansas, Kansas Contractors Association, Kansas Family Partnership, Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office, Federal Highway Administration and the Kansas Society of Professional Engineers all worked together to make the Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day safety campaign a success.

Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day is a nationwide effort to increase roadway safety and reduce all traffic fatalities. For more information and a list of all the winners across Kansas, go to and click on the Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day information.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe

Doug Herbert
By Doug Herbert

Pop quiz: What’s the number-one cause of death among teens in the U.S.?

Hint: It kills more young people every day than cancer, suicide or murder.

Answer: Car crashes.

Every year, thousands of teens die in car crashes and hundreds of thousands more are taken to the hospital with serious injuries. This statistic became a reality for me in January of 2008 when my two boys, Jon and James, ages 17 and 12, were killed in a car crash. One bad decision led to the death of my beautiful boys and brought to light for me a major epidemic in our country. I learned that car crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers, and it was obvious to me that something had to be done. This realization was the impetus behind our creation of B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe).

In that first year, with the help of other racers, we created an advanced driver training program to prepare my son Jon’s friends for the kinds of situations drivers face every day – skidding on an off-ramp, panic braking, emergency lane changes, etc. – scenarios that are often deadly for new drivers due to lack of experience. Jon’s classmates came up with the acronym B.R.A.K.E.S., and a mission was born.
Doug with his children, Jon, James
and Jessie, at Christmas in 2007.

Nine years later, B.R.A.K.E.S. has trained more than 25,000 teens from 43 different states and five countries. When you add in their parents, who are required to attend the training alongside their teen, that’s nearly 50,000 safer drivers on the road. This year, B.R.A.K.E.S. will host more than 40 weekend schools, visiting more than 20 different cities.
Often teens arrive for training somewhat surly, a bit resentful that their weekend time has been committed to what they think is going to be some sort of “Driver’s Ed school-thing.” Many have already been driving for months or even longer, and they think there’s nothing more to learn. But usually a little more than an hour later, the students are fully engaged, intently listening to their instructors and nervously laughing when it’s their turn to get behind the wheel and try something they’ve never done before. By the end of the four-hour session, graduation certificate in hand, the students are usually all smiles, and on the walk back to the car, many hugs are exchanged between parent and teen as both share a genuine moment of connection and common experience.
Evidence of B.R.A.K.E.S.’ efficacy goes beyond anecdotes, however. A study conducted by University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Professor Emeritus Dr. Paul Friday, compared driving records from five years’ worth of B.R.A.K.E.S. graduates with non-graduate peers, and the results were staggering: Teens without the B.R.A.K.E.S. training were more than twice as likely to experience a crash in the first three years of driving. Said another way, B.R.A.K.E.S. training reduced the likelihood of a crash by 64 percent – which is incredible when you consider that statistics show half of all teenagers will experience a crash before they graduate from high school.
The B.R.A.K.E.S. program is our way of preventing injuries and saving lives, and as a father, it’s important to me that this charity ensures that Jon and James will live on in memory and make a difference.

Doug Herbert is a legend in the drag racing world and has won 10 NHRA National Event Championships, 20 IHRA National Event Championships and four Top Fuel World Championships.


Monday, October 9, 2017

We were lucky

By Mary Jane King
Last summer I went with my husband and a friend to Fort Smith, Arkansas, to visit family and enjoy the three-day Biker’s Blues and BBQ motorcycle rally in Fayetteville. My favorite motorcycle ride is one filled with tree-lined switchbacks. I love the slower pace, and waiting for the next surprise to be glimpsed through the trees. So I was excited to start our ride from Fort Smith to Eureka Springs.

Highway 23, also known as the Pig Trail, is a remote, two-lane road curling and twisting its way through the scenic Ozark Mountains just like a pig’s tail. It is so beautiful that it has become one of the top 10 recommended motorcycle rides in America.
A very severe leg break.

We were on the Pig Trail only 20 minutes before we had trouble navigating a sharp left turn. We later found out that we hit a flattened armadillo carcass. It was so flat that we didn’t see it, but it was slick enough to cause the front tire to slide. My husband had only 20 feet to make a decision; either lay the motorcycle down in the road, or take the grass-lined ditch. Since neither of us were wearing a helmet, the ditch seemed to be the safer option.

We don’t remember much about those first few moments after leaving the road. I woke up laying in a deep ditch next to the totaled motorcycle, and my husband was 15 feet away with a severely broken leg.

Within minutes, two off-duty first responders pulled up to the scene. Thankfully, they were able to save my husband’s leg. Due to the remote location of our accident, it took almost an hour and a half before we arrived at the hospital. Our injuries were not necessarily minor. But things could have been worse, much worse. Only by the grace of God did neither of us receive a head injury from being thrown from the motorcycle.

Everyone has their own reasons as to why they do or don’t wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle, but I will always encourage others to make a safer decision than we did.  Wear a helmet, it could keep your life from changing.

Mary Jane King is a Graphic Designer Specialist at the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Friday, October 6, 2017

A word to the wise is sufficient

By Dean Harris
Dean Harris
I had a college professor that used to tell me, "A word to the wise is sufficient." It's been 30 years since I have seen him, and over that time these words have proven useful to me. I'm hoping that these few words will find wise folks as well.
I'm not going to act as one who has always made right choices or done the right thing out here. We all can testify, that just is not the case for anyone. I've been driving professionally for over 25 years, and I have made some bad decisions. Only by the grace of God, nothing came of them. We have all driven too fast for conditions, texted while driving, held a cell phone to talk while driving, changed music or read something while behind the wheel. Eating while driving. They are all distractions. I've been so tired in the past, that I couldn’t remember how I got to the ramp I was on. I now have a different view of "power naps." Changing your idea of distracted driving is my hope here.
Recently I had the opportunity to view a crash from a forward-facing dash cam. Dash cams have increased the intensity of my convictions concerning distracted driving. I will not go into the details, except one. When the video was replayed, it stopped a split second before impact. At that very moment, you see the driver’s face. You could see their eyes. You could see the driver's horror. Almost as if they realized they had made a terrible mistake, but too late. They had made a decision they would not return from. No more birthdays to celebrate. No grandkid's celebrations. No retirement. All gone in an instant. Gone! Just that quick.
No matter what your age, you can make decisions on these roads that will change lives forever! Please, please, please, let words to the wise suffice.

Dean Harris is a Kansas Road Team member and a driver for FedEx.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

I will try again tomorrow

By Jacob Mansch
On September 29, 2015, I became a Kansas traffic statistic. I was a passenger in a vehicle and became a victim of distracted driving. The driver was using his cell phone.
Jacob Mansch
After we hit a concrete bridge on a rural county road in Sumner County, I have little recollection of the events of that afternoon – indeed I have a sketchy memory of the next several months.
Thankfully the skills and knowledge of the first responders, the ambulance EMTs and the awesome doctors and nurses who cared for me, I survived to tell my story. I know my journey is not yet over but I have been blessed with incredible faith and a truly loving, supportive family, without whom I could not have survived. Through the continued prayers of my family and my huge community of friends, my successes have been celebrated and my journey continues.
From a young age my parents taught me perseverance and determination in the face of adversity. I was born with Spina Bifida, but with hard work and courage, I graduated high school with my class. I had a full life of friends, activities and events. I had a job I truly loved and lived independently in my own home with my awesome service dog – a German Shepherd whose name was (appropriately) Angel. That all changed the day I became a statistic. I was told that in the time following the wreck, Angel stayed by my side and helped me stay conscious despite my extremely severe injuries. Angel stayed with me over the next five months in the hospital.  I lost her July 15, 2016.
After being intubated for an extended period of time, I had to work hard to breathe on my own, then relearn how to swallow, to talk and to eat. My right leg was amputated at the pelvic bone. I had to learn to balance so I could sit, then to use my wheelchair again. Through determination and perseverance, I was able to do all these things.
Because of continued severe trauma and infections, I contracted myopathy and neuropathy of my upper extremities. My hands and arms began to curl up into my torso.  I began to do the “T- Rex” - what my family called this condition. With their continued faith, their constant sense of hope, and our gift of humor, this became just another step on my journey. My brother and my sister-in-law stopped by the hospital each night with words of encouragement and praises for each day’s “win.” They are one of the reasons I never lost hope. Each day they eased the long day of recovery and dreaded rehabilitation. My doctors and nurses knew them by name. Roy and I watched Cubs baseball and Husker football (none of which I remember), and Jayhawk basketball (some fleeting memories). Our Bears football was a lost season that year.
Just this month I have returned to the job I love so much. My Dad keeps his watch over me from heaven, and my Angel is now watching from doggie heaven. I have a lot of work to do to become fully independent. I still need help dressing and transferring from bed to wheelchair. I need help when my hands don’t cooperate. My school district has been awesome in working with me when I get too tired and worn out to work. The dreams still haunt me and I need someone to stay with me at night. Mom told me one day, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow.”
And so I will persevere, thankful for each day - whatever it brings - and I will try again tomorrow.

Jacob Mansch is a para at Belle Plaine High School.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The importance of seat belts

By Alice Laizure
Alice Laizure
The majority of us do it every day. It is just part of our daily routine. Getting in to our car and driving, to work, school, activities, etc.
Recently, on Aug. 6 at 12:15 p.m. to be exact, I learned the hard way just how important seat belts are in our everyday commuting.
As I was exiting I-470 on the Fairlawn Street ramp in Topeka, I was going straight across Fairlawn to the second light, so I could turn left and go west on to 29th Street.  I saw no cars, anywhere in site, when suddenly to my right, out of nowhere there was a black vehicle heading south on Fairlawn. There was no time to react; all I could think was, where did that car come from?  And BOOM, a strong hit on my passenger side, and I began rolling. Holding on for dear life, and praying. My head banging over and over on my left side. My car had rolled three times, before coming to rest on its side. When my car stopped rolling, I was hanging in my car by my seat belt. 
Alice's vehicle after it rolled three times.
Fortunately, for me, my seat belt had saved my life. The Fire Department arrived, extracted me from my car and I was whisked away in an ambulance to the hospital. At the hospital scans were taken, and I had no broken bones or internal injuries.  The doctor at the Emergency Room told me I was very, very lucky to not have sustained very serious injuries from my accident. The doctor said I had entire body whiplash. I consider myself very lucky to have walked away the same day, bruised, battered and in a lot of pain, but not critically injured.
Today I still feel a bit out of it (probably a concussion), and have pain from bruised ribs and back pain.  Luckily, my face is no longer black and blue, and I went back to work two weeks later, working half days.
My message to everyone is, never drive your car without first making sure you and everyone in your car is buckled up.  Please, buckle up without thinking twice about it, because the simple act of buckling up can mean the difference between life and death.
Drive safely.

Alice Laizure works for the Kansas Department of Corrections in Topeka.



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

These crashes are not accidents

Karen Wittman
Anyone who knows me would say I am not a perfectionist, not a person who insists on exactness. But I do have one thing that I must insist on - stop calling impaired driving crashes “accidents.”
Hello, my name is Karen Wittman. I currently am Deputy District Attorney in the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s office, and I specialize in traffic prosecution.  Prior to coming to Wyandotte County, I was the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor for the state.
Read about any crash online or in print media and the headlines state: 
“Son dies in second drunk driving accident”
“Drunk driver kills couple in accident”
“One paralyzed in accident with drunk driver”
“Driver impaired in accident killing baby” 
This is wrong!  It is inaccurate! If you look up in Webster’s dictionary “accident,” it is defined as, “an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally;” or better yet, “an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause.” 
An impaired driving crash is foreseeable, expected, intentional and NOT by chance.
I have made it a point to go out on all fatal crashes in which someone could possibly be charged with a crime. I work closely with law enforcement to determine if a crash involves criminal behavior. I remember one night specifically.  On that night, I received a call from my husband.  He was bringing our kids home from soccer practice.  He was wondering if I knew why the traffic was so backed up.  I told him I did not know.  As soon as I hung up, I received a call from dispatch. There was a crash and they were requesting me to come out.  I called my husband back and told him he may be there awhile. 
When I got there, it was obvious how the crash occurred. A vehicle had travelled the wrong way and hit a car head on. There was debris all over the roadway. I asked about the person who was driving the correct way. I was told he was still alive but that he probably would not make it. I asked about the other driver and was told she was not hurt but was being transported to the hospital to get checked out. The cops on the scene indicated they could smell alcohol coming from her and that there was an open container of alcohol in the vehicle. The driver who was driving the right way died three days later.
After further investigation and a blood test, the wrong way driver’s blood alcohol level was 0.24! The legal limit is 0.08. I charged the driver with involuntary manslaughter while Driving Under the Influence, a felony.
While working the case, I met the victim’s wife and 4-year-old son. They were devastated by what happened. I found out the victim was coming home from college where he attended night classes to make a better life for his family. His wife was about four months pregnant with their second child. The victim’s mother and father were in constant contact with me - they lived out of state. They wanted answers!  I did not have any. Why did this person do this? How did she get so disoriented to be going the wrong way on that stretch of highway? The only answer I could tell them is she was impaired.
In the end, the wrong way driver went to prison. She pleaded not to go. She wanted to be with her daughter who was young at the time. She begged the judge to allow her to be with her family. I told the judge my victim had no chance to beg for more time with his family. My victim wished he could have one more day, one more minute, one more moment with his family and that was all taken away from her selfish act.
Months passed and I received a card in the mail. It was a birth announcement-- a baby girl was born. A girl who would never know a father that wanted her life to be better than his. A father that would not walk her down the aisle, or give her advice or bring her home from soccer practice. Then it hit me … my family was on that road that night.
This crash and all other impaired driving cases are preventable! These crashes are foreseeable, they are not by chance … these crashes are NOT accidents. 



Monday, October 2, 2017

Treat all motorists with respect

By Todd Murray
Waving my arms while riding down the middle of the right lane of the two- lane county road, I was trying to do everything I could to get the attention of the box truck driver pulling out to pass the car in front of him. I had nowhere to go on the narrow blacktop but the ditch.
Todd Murray and his wife, Debbie, biking in Cottonwood Falls.
I will never forget the sound of the driver accelerating his truck or the sight of him coming directly at me. I had his attention, and he knew exactly what he was doing. “Get off MY road or you are dead!” I used my only option, the ditch, just yards before what would have been sure death for me.
I will never forget how angry I was that day. Someone had intentionally put my life in danger, virtually attempted murder! I was not an opossum crossing the road, I am a real life human being, a son, a husband, a father with a family that depended on me. Just because I chose to ride a bike to work for exercise and to save money on gas does not make me a “road hazard.”
Even though that incident happened nearly 30 years ago, I would love to say it was an isolated incident, but it wasn’t. I meet thousands of cars every year while riding my bike, and that scenario has replayed itself a handful of times since that fateful day. Sometimes more respectful drivers pull out, then pull back over allowing me to continue on before passing.
What makes one driver pull back in, while another comes at you bent on destruction? Attitude and respect for life.
Every person on a road, whether in a car, a truck, a motorcycle, on a bike, walking or running is a real life human being. We are all sons and daughters, we all have families and friends. Every person has a right to be on the public roads, they are not owned by any one person.
They are not a nuisance that slows you down, they are not obstacles, are not disposable. Sure, everybody out there does things they shouldn’t do. They break traffic laws and do less than smart things sometimes. I see it all the time whether it is a cyclist or runner or driver.
But in our hurry up, distracted, self centered world anything and anyone that dares get in our way or slow us up for a few seconds will often get to experience our wrath. Shaking fists, gesturing fingers, blaring horns and super close passes are the result. We have a problem, and the problem is us.
Take a good look in the mirror. How do you want to be treated? Do you respect others how you want to be treated? What if it we’re your husband or wife, your son or daughter that was treated that way? How would you feel then?
Leave two minutes earlier and the 10 seconds you lose slowing down to get around a bike rider won’t be a problem. Respect others and you will be a happier person.
Todd Murray is from Hutchinson and owns Bikes and More.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Wild driving

Abbie Wisdom-Williams and her pet skunk.
I am Abbie Wisdom-Williams, a KDOT employee since February 2017 and a wildlife advocate and rehabilitator for almost 20 years. As most animal protectors go, we could probably be classified as clinically insane as to the lengths we go to ensure the safety of critters, both domestic and wild. A friend of mine was killed while trying to rescue a possum from a railroad track (not joking).
I was born with an overly developed sense of self-preservation so I try to be hyper aware of my surroundings when trying to rescue an animal. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to see everything. A very dear friend and fellow rescuer had a very close call this summer. We had a call of three baby raccoons in a ditch after a heavy rain. I was too far away so Jana drove out to pick them up. It was dark so she put on her flashers and started searching.  All three were found safe and sound and placed in a carrier.  Jana put the carrier in the back seat of her car, started around to the driver’s side when a car hydroplaned, slamming into the rear of her SUV. Jana was too focused on the condition of the raccoons and didn’t see or hear the vehicle. She was lucky, and the raccoons survived although they had to be cut out of the back of the car.
I don’t proclaim myself an expert (I’ve probably done some really stupid things), but I thought I might offer some tips as to sharing the roadways with the fuzzy, scaly and slimy things. 
Above all else, use common sense!  Don’t assume someone will see you picking up that turtle. Is there a chance you might chase that puppy into traffic instead of away from it?  Will that injured raccoon bite? If you don’t think you can help without the possibility of someone getting hurt, don’t do it. Call for backup, have someone watch traffic for you or call a professional (believe it or not, 911 is an option). Remember that an injured animal can be panicked, in pain and will lash out because he probably doesn’t know you are trying to help unless you are Dr. Dolittle.
Do you know why you see more dead armadillos than live ones?  It’s because they jump straight up when startled. A great tip to make wildlife aware that you are there is to randomly change the brightness of your headlights. A deer can see the lights but has no comprehension of the fact that they are attached to a proverbial brick wall. Changing the brightness draws their attention and can save their life, your car and maybe your life as well. Of course, follow the rules of the road when changing the brightness of your headlights, and dim appropriately when facing oncoming traffic.
Lastly, get to know the animals that live around you, their behavior, their habits, the environment as they see it. Understanding them may mean they will be less of a target for you.

Abbie Wisdom-Williams is a Senior Administrative Assistant for KDOT in Hutchinson  

Thursday, September 28, 2017


By Cindy Landgraf
Cindy Landgraf
If I had to choose one word to describe Jeff it would be dedication. Like most people, he was dedicated to his family, his friends, and his job. But for Jeff it was much more. As an EMT, he chose a career that was dedicated to taking care of others no matter what the cost. And like most EMTs, his co-workers were his family. They shared life-changing experiences every day. Experiences that can only be understood by others dealing with the same type of experiences every day. Experiences that bound them together like a family.
Jeff became an EMT in 1988 and went on to become a paramedic and a registered nurse. He had a passion for emergency response services - whether it was working as a paramedic and shift supervisor for Finney County EMS or an RN/Paramedic for EagleMed. But serving the community wasn’t enough. He wanted to help others interested in becoming EMTs, so he became an instructor certified to teach every aspect of EMS.  He especially enjoyed teaching EMT classes and mentoring others as they joined the emergency responder ranks.
On April 18, 2011, his EMS brother in Scott County needed help teaching a class.  Jeff happily answered the call, especially delighted because it was a fairly warm night for April so he was able to ride his motorcycle to Scott City.
At 10:30 p.m. that night, my daughter woke me up worried that Jeff wasn’t home yet.  She had seen on Facebook that Highway 83 was closed due to a traffic accident. I didn’t think anything about it. Jeff was teaching, taking as long as needed to help the students and the instructor.  After all, he was the one that saved lives.
With that thought still in my head, I heard a knock at my front door. There at my front door was a high school friend who is also the Captain of the KHP. I heard the words but didn’t understand. There was an accident. Jeff was gone. Nothing could be done to save him. Save him…. isn’t that what his EMS family was supposed to do – save him? Wasn’t that what he was teaching them to do? When I finally got some of my mind back, I looked up. There on my lawn stood almost the entire staff of the Finney County EMS, our EMS family, ready and waiting to support me and the children in our most difficult time.
Over the next few days, the details of the accident came clear. Jeff was headed home (south on Highway 83). Just outside of the Scott City limits, a pickup driver, thinking he had time to make the turn, turned onto Highway 83 in front of Jeff causing him to lay the motorcycle over. A few minutes later, a car failed to stop or even yield right of way to the pedestrian trying to wave him down. They continued through the accident scene hitting Jeff.
Jeff left behind a teenage daughter, young son, parents, brother, his extended family and a large emergency response family. In Jeff’s honor, we are all “boldly going forward."
Our daughter and I have both become EMTs.  Our son is like his father-  he loves to hunt, shoot and enjoy the outdoors. He is old enough to drive this year, and as a mom, a widow and an EMT, I remind him daily to be extra careful. 
Be aware of your surroundings, and if in doubt stop or slow down. It’s always better to arrive late than never.  

Cindy Landgraf is an EMT for both Lane and Scott County EMS.



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Being a good driver doesn't always matter

Logan O'Dea
I always thought of myself as a good driver; I recently found out that doesn’t always matter.
My name is Logan O’Dea; I graduated from Kansas State in December. I played football for five years while there, so I figured that I could handle whatever the real world threw at me. That was before my first wreck.
It was early summer. I had just started my first job a couple of months prior, one that required me to commute from Topeka to Kansas City. The drive on Kansas Turnpike was one I was very used to at that point. It had rained hard the night before, but by that morning it had calmed to a light drizzle. I had never had any problem with rain while driving, so I didn’t pay it much mind. It had been pounded into my head by my KDOT aunt never to use cruise control while the roads are wet, but I still drove at my normal speed.
Just east of Lawrence, next to a rest stop, I changed to the left lane to pass a car. That was the point when I hit the standing water. I immediately lost control; my tires had no traction, so steering and brakes could do nothing as my car went off the road. As soon as I was off the road, I looked up and saw trees and thought, “I’m not going to miss those.” The weight of my engine caused my car to pivot 180 degrees, so now I was going backwards, which ended up saving my life. I collided with one of the trees, probably still going faster than 70 mph.
Logan's vehicle after the crash.
Miraculously, I walked away. A visit to the hospital following showed no injuries whatsoever besides soreness and a few scrapes. I know the biggest reason I walked away was I was wearing my seat belt (another thing my aunt always made sure I did); if I hadn’t been, my body would have been with the back-window glass they found flung 50 feet away from the car.
Looking back, I marvel at all the ways I was lucky that day. If the collision had happened anywhere but the rear of the car, I wouldn’t be here. The fact that there was level ground next to the road rather than a drop off also saved me. When I saw the wreckage that night, the rear tire was now pushing the driver’s side seat forward; I was told if the tire had gone any farther forward, both my legs would have shattered.
Through the ordeal and all the things that have followed, I always try to remember how lucky I am to be alive, let alone walking around. I know I have taken a few lessons from this, and I hope that others might as well. It doesn’t matter how good you think you are at driving, something can always happen. Hydroplaning is a very real danger.
And most importantly always wear your seat belt.