Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Drinking and driving unwise game plan

Football fans across the country prepare for America’s most watched sporting event, Super Bowl LI on Sunday.  Many of them will choose to celebrate with a few alcoholic beverages.
This year, The Kansas Department of Transportation has a message for this year’s Super Bowl Sunday: Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.

“The Super Bowl is its own holiday,” said Chris Bortz, KDOT Traffic Safety Manager, in the agency’s press release. “Designate before you celebrate. Don’t let a day of fun turn into a DUI or worse.”

KDOT and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are teaming up to provide you with a solid game plan to ensure a safe and fun viewing party without any  fumbles.

If you plan to drink:

Don’t drive. Before you ever leave the house, designate someone who will not be drinking and who can drive you home.  Have a backup plan in case they drop the ball. Call your local cab or transportation company, ridesharing service, or a friend who you can count on. Leave your car keys at home.

If you plan to drive:

You are basically the quarterback. Your teammates are relying on you to make good choices. Don’t drink and get your buddies home safely. Don’t forget to remind your passengers to buckle up and listen to your own advice.
Be on the lookout for other people who may not have a ride. Fans don’t let fans drive drink.

If you are hosting your own party:

You are the coach of the team! You want your friends to have fun while watching the big game? Designate your own sober driver to help ensure your guests get home. Or ask your guests if they have one of their own.

Serve a selection of drinks that don’t contain alcohol. Never serve alcohol to minors. If an underage person drinks or drives, the person who served the alcohol can be held liable for any damage, injury, or death caused by that driver. You could even face jail time.
Encourage those that do consume alcohol to eat plenty of food and drink water.

Know the risks:

Just as football players realize that the sport they play can be dangerous, you should know the risks if you decide to drink. Impaired driving is dangerous and the consequences are serious. Don’t become another statistic.


You drink you drive you lose.

Monday, January 30, 2017

New weather satellite, GOES-16 provides potential for improved forecasts

There’s a saying that goes like this:

“Are you unhappy with the way the weather is in Kansas? Just wait five minutes and it will change.”

While that may not be true, there are times when we have all felt frustrated by inaccurate weather forecasts.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA are trying to improve our current ability to forecast the weather with the new GOES-16 weather satellite which launched in November 2016.

Less than two months after its launch, the GOES-16 satellite has already sent back images that are out of this world.

According to NOAA’s image gallery, these images, a snapshot of earth on January 15 were taken at the same time. The image on the left is a color-composite full disk image from the GOES-16 satellite. It has five-times greater cover, four times the spatial resolution and three-times the spectral channels than the earlier generation, GOES-13, shown on the right.
The image on the right cannot produce the same “true color” effect without the inclusion of more data, according to the NOAA image gallery.

The website also said that the new GOES-16 technology can provide a full-disk image of the earth every 15 minutes and one of the continental U.S every 5 minutes.

“(The GOES-16) has the ability to target regional areas where severe weather, hurricanes, wildfires, volcanic eruptions or other high-impact environmental phenomena are occurring as often as every 30 seconds.” The website said.

The GOES-16’s photo was taken about 22,300 miles high. North America, South America and the west coast of Africa are in view. This image was captured during the big ice storm that affected parts of Kansas.

While the GOES-16 is still in its testing phase for several months, it has given meteorologists a positive forecast when it comes to predicting weather. More accurate predictions also mean that KDOT crews can treat roads more effectively.

Want more information on the GOES-16? Check out the NOAA image gallery:

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Give them room: Roadside crashes are preventable

The lights are flashing and the sirens are wailing. Whether it’s an emergency vehicle, law enforcement car or a KDOT employee, your response should always be the same. Move over and give them room.

Earlier this week, two crashes involving Kansas Highway Patrol vehicles and officers occurred on two different days and in two different areas.  Both incidents required temporary road closures for clean-up and investigations.

“Anytime one of these events occurs it hits home pretty hard,” Stephen La Row, a KHP Technical Trooper, said. “It’s an eye opening experience for everyone involved and for anyone that works on the side of the road for that matter.”

La Row said that while these crashes are not an uncommon occurrence, they can be prevented.

“What (motorists) should be doing is paying attention to the task at hand,” La Row said.
“And that should be driving.  We can minimize our distractions such as cell phones and other electronic devices that are needless when driving a car.” 

Steve Baalman, a KDOT Area Four Engineer in Topeka, said that because of our connected society and the need for some people to use their cell phones at all times has made it noticeably scarier in work zones.

“We too often see folks with their faces buried in their cell phones,” Baalman said. “Obviously with the texting, it’s very spooky for us and it’s very unsafe.”

Both KHP and KDOT have experienced tragedy when workers were killed when working along the highways.

“The last trooper killed in the line of duty was doing a roadside inspection,” La Row said.

 “We are looking out for all our roadside workers. We all want to do our jobs and we want to do them safely. We want to be able to go home.”

“My goal is that all of the employees who work with me and work for me go home at the end of the day.” Baalman said. “I did lose one of my employees last year on U.S.  24. And although it wasn’t  work-related, it still hurt. It wasn’t the first time. I lost one of our EO Specialists on an accident on K-10. And both incidents were caused by inattentive cross over accidents. It hurts.  Every time I drive over certain sections of K-10, I remember that one of my guys lost his life there and so did his wife and baby daughter; on Father’s Day no less.”

Baalman said that despite the risks, working along the highways is worth it.

“The work keeps us coming back,” Baalman said. “I presume most folks are like me. We like the work, the service and the sense of accomplishment.  It makes it worthwhile for those folks who are driving it every day.”

Kansas enacted the Move Over Law in 2006.

“The fines are very steep as well they should be,” La Row said. “The law states that you have to move over and if traffic doesn’t allow you to, then the minimum you should do is slow down. That just keeps all our roadside workers safe.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

#IAMKDOT: Traci Ward

This month's #IAMKDOT feature is Traci Ward. 

Ward has worked for the state of Kansas for more than 20 years and is the Kansas Department of Transportation's Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Officer and ADA Coordinator.

As an EEO Officer, Ward helps inform KDOT employees across the state of their rights and who to contact if a need to file a grievance should arise. Ward's goal at KDOT is to ensure that respect and diversity are upheld in the workplace. She also helps educate and empower people to do their best work. 

When Ward is not in the office or traveling across the state, she is an author and a motivational speaker. She is also a mother and a nana.

#IAMKDOT is an illustration project that recognizes KDOT employees who work hard to ensure Kansans enjoy safe roads, rails and skies. Safe and successful transportation also helps Kansans financially. Some employees of KDOT fill dangerous but necessary positions and this project also serves as a reminder for travelers to slow down and remember that underneath those neon vests, are individuals with families and hobbies waiting for them at home.

Do you know a KDOT worker that deserves recognition? Nominations are open! Email Mallory.Goeke@ks.gov today to get started! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

KABOOM: Building implosion closes I-435 early Sunday

The Van Trust Building as it crumbles after a scheduled implosion on Sunday morning.
Citizens in Overland Park may have been awoken to the sound of the 10-story Van Trust building implosion early Sunday morning. Eastbound and Westbound I-435 were fully closed for a short time during the implosion to ensure safety of the residents and travelers. 

According to the press release, this building was demolished to make way for a new office campus. 

Want to see the implosion ? Check out this video!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Is it a car or a bike? The answer is both

Move over, Fred Flinstone, moving your car with just your feet is so prehistoric. Why not use pedals instead?

As more and more people are trying to find alternative fuel and ways to get around, an interesting type of vehicle is starting to emerge onto our streets: The car and bike hybrid.

These vehicles come in a variety of shapes and designs. Some are fueled by the sun to run small motors to continue running when pedaling isn’t an option. A few models have batteries that can be recharged in a matter of hours. Early prototypes of other start up companies claim their version of a car/bike hybrid can also run on plants.

At their core however, these vehicles truly run on pedal power and could change how we get around in the near future. And for those who live in countries where vehicles aren’t accessible, this type of transportation could really make difference. Most of these vehicles are covered and protect the driver from the elements.

Check out these videos of some of these hybrids in action:

Do you see these vehicles taking off? Tell us what you think!  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

SAFE students visit Capitol

Over 100 high school students visit with the legislators at the Capitol during the SAFE Day at the Capitol.
Around 100 Kansas students visited with legislators in Topeka yesterday for the SAFE (Seatbelts Are For Everyone) Day at the Capitol event.

Students met with state representatives and shared how their local SAFE program has benefited their communities.

According to the organization's website, SAFE is peer-to-peer program located in 142 schools across 62 counties in Kansas. Students educate their peers and classmates on traffic safety issues like distracted driving and impaired driving. They also encourage each other to buckle up every trip, every time. 

In the nine years since the program was implemented, the seatbelt rate for teens 15-17 has increased 25 percent. Today, 86 percent of teens are using their seatbelts. 

For more information on the SAFE program check out their website:

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Winter Ready Wednesdays: Ice storm recap

For nearly a week, Kansans were told a cautionary tale about the impending ice storm that hit last weekend. While the resulting aftermath of the storm wasn’t as far-reaching as predicted, for many, this storm was still treacherous.

At its worst, thousands of Kansans were without power for several hours as power lines snapped due to the weight of ice and fallen tree branches. Some are still waiting for power to return.

While the power may have been off, KDOT crews were hard at work ensuring that state highways and roads were safe for travel.

KDOT crews put in a combined 25,000 hours of work as they cleared the roads over the weekend. During the ice storm, 12,000 tons of salt and 13,000 tons of salt and sand mix were also used to keep roads from freezing and to provide better traction. A total of 1.3 million gallons of brine were applied to surfaces.

For an idea of how icy it was, check out this video of a state trooper who narrowly avoided a horrible crash with an out-of-control semi on I-70 in Russell County. 

While your area may not have been as heavily affected  by this storm as predictedKDOT still recommends taking weather alerts seriously and to check KanDrive.org and call 511 before you travel during the next winter storm. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

People Saving People nominations now being accepted by KDOT

Nominations for the 2017 People Saving People Award are now being accepted by the Kansas Department of Transportation.
The award is presented to a person or organization that advocates safety and has a positive effect in transportation safety behavior. Awards are presented in three categories: community leadership and engineering; education and information; and enforcement, emergency response, prosecution and adjudication.
           More details about the awards and nomination forms can be found at www.ktsro.org. Nominations must be submitted by email, mail or fax by midnight Feb. 10.
The awards will be presented April 5 at the annual Kansas Transportation Safety Conference in Wichita.
The 2016 winners include:
Karen Wittman, Kansas Attorney General’s Office—Wittman was a traffic safety resource prosecutor for the State of Kansas. Wittman taught classes, prosecuted cases, met with other impaired driving prevention professionals and coordinated with law enforcement and traffic safety resource prosecutors across the country. In addition she taught “boot camps” that provide new prosecutors with the basic resources for prosecuting impaired drivers.
Norraine Wingfield, Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office— Wingfield has worked for the last 10 years to reduce traffic safety injuries and fatalities in Kansas with KTSRO. She has also served on the National Child Passenger Safety Board and the AARP Board of Directors and spoke at Lifesavers and Kidz in Motion conferences.
Brown County Sheriff’s Office: Teen Lifesaver Initiative— The Teen Lifesaver Initiative started two years ago, and teaches high school students first aid and CPR as well as how to use an Automated External Defibrillator to help those injured in serious crashes. Students from every high school in Brown County have been trained in live-saving measures from the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, Horton Police Department and the Brown County Health Department.

Addie Evans and Katelyn Burkhart, Buhler High School—The two students worked on a class project inspired by a friend’s severe injury due to a drunk driver. In their studies the two learned that the trauma caused by the death of a loved one is enough pain, but the trauma caused by a decision that could have been prevented is worse. With that in mind they organized a fundraising walk called March4Sobriety, designed t-shirts, created a GoFundMe page and distributed flyers. All of the money raised for the walk was donated to Mothers Against Drunk Driving-Kansas. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Winter Ready Wednesday: Don't crowd the plow

Earlier in this blog series, we discussed how important snow plows are when it comes to combatting winter storms. When one of these winter weather tools is taken out of commission, it becomes an even bigger challenge to keep the roads open.

Last week, a KDOT snow plow was struck on I-70 as it was clearing the roads in Riley County. Fortunately, the KDOT snow plow operator was OK but the driver of the other vehicle was hospitalized and I-70 was shut down for approximately two hours as crews worked to clear the debris.

KDOT wants to remind drivers that during and after a winter storm, KDOT snow plows need extra room to safely clear the roads. Below is a video explaining what happens when a plow was struck a few years ago:

Troy Whitworth, Assistant to the Director for the Division of Operations, said that the most stressful time for a snow plow operator is when the roads start to improve and the lanes are mostly clear.

“Once the roads start to improve, the traffic speeds up,” Whitworth said. “Our trucks plow at slower speeds than the traffic around them for safety reasons. Sometimes even with the strobes flashing on our trucks the traffic will misjudge the speed difference. That is when the inattentive driver can end up in the ditch or impact our plow truck. “

Winter weather will be returning to the area soon.  Check out this video below for some tips when sharing the road with a KDOT snow plow:

Monday, January 9, 2017

Check out this 'shocking' video that may save your life

Car crashes are definitely stressful and sometimes it can be hard to remember how to stay safe in your vehicle while waiting for emergency respondents to assist you.
The video below discusses what to do in the event that a driver crashes into a power pole and there are downed power lines on the car. The information provided could save your life if you ever find yourself in this situation. 

As always the best way to avoid injury in car crashes is to stay alert while driving. Don't text and drive and wear your seat belts. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Now that's icy!

Parts of the state experienced winter weather this week. While we may have received a few inches of snow, that's nothing compared to what our neighboring country to the north experienced. 

 Last week, Canada faced extremely icy conditions and some streets were transformed into an ice rink. Canadians didn't miss the opportunity to grab their skates and have some winter fun.

While this looks like a good time on skates, we recommend that you know the road conditions before driving by calling 511 or visiting KDOT’s KanDrive website.  http://www.kandrive.org/ 
If you must drive on icy roads covered, take it slow and allow extra room for cars around you.

Have you ever experienced this much ice on your roads? Let us know! 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Winter Ready Wednesdays: Coats and cars

This winter, whether your family jumps in the car for a drive to the grocery store or to grandma's house, buckling up is one of the best ways to ensure safely. It is always a good idea to buckle your child in an age and weight appropriate car seat or booster seat. But during these cold months, it can be hard to tell if your child is fastened in securely while they are wearing heavy winter coats. 

Below is a graphic with some suggestions on how to ensure that your entire family is prepared to travel safely and warmly this winter. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Car Talk: Could vehicles communicate to prevent crashes?

“Honk! Beep!”

Drivers are familiar with the sound of a vehicle’s horn blaring to get another driver’s attention. But what if the vehicles themselves were part of that communication process? And what if they could actually communicate with each other to keep us safe?
A recent proposal by the U.S. Department of Transportation could do exactly that. Late last year, Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx announced that the department would advance efforts to make vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication a reality.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s press release, Foxx said that the U.S. DOT is carrying the ball as far as they need to ensure that lives are saved and this transportation technology could make a huge difference.

“This long promised V2V rule is the next step in that progression,” Foxx said. “Once deployed, V2V will provide 360-degree situational awareness on the road will help us enhance vehicle safety.”

The new proposed rule would mean that all newer light vehicles would be need to be manufactured with V2V technologies and automakers would be required to ensure that the vehicles would be able to communicate universally through standardized messaging.

 “V2V devices would use the dedicated short range communications (DSRC) to transmit data, such as location, direction and speed, to nearby vehicles.” The press release said. “That data would be updated and broadcast up to 10 times per second to nearby vehicles, and using that information, V2V-equipped vehicles can identify risks and provide warnings to drivers to avoid imminent crashes.

Of the many uses, this technology could provide the driver with much needed information about how safe it is to pass on a two-lane highway and if there is any on-coming traffic that is hard to see. Other situations where it could help are if it would be safe to make a left-handed turn or if another vehicle is close enough to cause a collision.

While this technology could be introduced to newer cars in the near future, there are a few steps that need happen before we will be seeing cars with this feature.

What do you think? Would you be willing to drive a vehicle that can communicate with other cars around it? Let us know in the comments.