Tuesday, October 31, 2017

#IAMKDOT: Larry Kjellberg

This month’s #IAMKDOT is Larry Kjellberg, a Highway Maintenance Supervisor for the Ness City Subarea. 

Kjellberg began his career at KDOT as a temporary employee during the summer of 1980.  He returned to KDOT in as an Equipment Operator I in 1981.  He was promoted to Equipment Operator II in September 1985, Equipment Operator Senior in 2003, Equipment Operator Specialist in 2010 and was promoted to Highway Maintenance Supervisor for the Ness City Subarea last year. 

With more than 35 years of experience, Kjellberg has many memorable moments with KDOT, but says his favorite part of the job is the winter snow plow season because that’s when he really gets to help people – and help he has. 

He’s helped stranded motorists change tires and located and returned a lost cell phone.  He’s helped in several life-saving efforts to transport patients to hospitals during blizzards. Kjellberg earned a KDOT Orange Hero award for his efforts.

When a patient from the Tribune/Leoti area needed to be transferred to Hays, Kjellberg met the ambulance at the county line and plowed the way for them to the Rush County line where the next snow plow driver waited to escort the ambulance on to Ellis County.  Not too long after, Kjellberg got the call again.  The Ness City hospital needed help transferring a patient to Hays during a snow storm.  Kjellberg met the ambulance again and led the way to the Rush County Line where the LaCrosse team took over.

Kjellberg and his wife Wendi have four kids, Amber (Dighton), Becca (Kinsley) Chelsey (Dighton) and Lucas (Ness City) and five grandkids.  When not at work, Kjellberg enjoys spending time with his children and grandkids, but especially enjoys fishing with his grandkids, and hunting and trapping with his son, Lucas.  Those close to him would say that he is a trustworthy, honest and sincere role model.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween safety tips

Tomorrow, candy will flow and trick-or-treaters across the country will take to the streets to collect the sugary goodness. Here are some safety tips to ensure everyone has a frightfully good time.

  • Turn on your headlights to improve visibility - Even in the day time.
  • Watch for trick-or-treaters on curbs, streets and medians. They could be wearing darker costumes so keep your eyes peeled.
  • Slow down in residential areas.  Give yourself extra time to react should a trick-or-treater dash into the road.
  • Be sure to scan both sides of the street as you drive. Be prepared  to stop for trick-or-treaters.

Trick or Treaters:

 If you are young at heart and will be taking to the streets to collect some goodies, there are a few things you need to know:
  • Let your parents or guardians know where you will be going. Create a route and stick to it. 
  • Follow safety rules, and look both ways before crossing the streets. Don’t cross between vehicles.
  • Trick or treat in a group. It can be more entertaining and safer. Younger children should be with a responsible adult or youth.
  • Be bright at night - ensure that that your costume can be seen by drivers. Enhance your costumes with reflective tape or glow sticks.
  • You should be able to see without difficulty. Don’t wear bulky masks or head gear. Consider using non-toxic face make up or paint.
  • Carry a flashlight inside your Halloween bucket or bag so you can see where you are going. DON’T shine it into the eyes of drivers.
  • Stay on sidewalks - if you must walk in the street, walk on the left side, facing traffic.

We hope you have a happy Halloween! 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Stay alert: Deer are on the move

Deer activity on and near Kansas' roadways poses a seasonal traffic hazard. Because deer-breeding season runs from October and into December, law enforcement officers routinely investigate a large number of vehicle-deer crashes this time of year. The Kansas Highway Patrol advises all motorists to be aware of this potential danger and to use extra caution. The following defensive driving techniques could ensure your safety this fall and winter:

  • Stay alert, pay more attention to the road and roadside, and intentionally look for deer. Be especially alert at dawn and dusk, the peak movement times for deer and when visibility is low.
  • Slow down at deer-crossing signs, which are posted where deer-vehicle collisions have repeatedly occurred, and near woods, parks, golf courses, and streams or creeks. At a reduced speed, you have a better chance of avoiding a deer.
  • Deer usually travel in groups. When one deer crosses the road, there may be others about to cross. Slow down and watch for others to dart into the road.
  • Slow down when approaching deer standing near roadsides. They have a tendency to bolt, possibly onto the roadway. Use emergency flashers to warn oncoming drivers after you see deer near a roadway.
  • Always wear your seat belt. Statistics show that most people injured or killed in deer-related collisions were not wearing seat belts.
  • The most serious crashes occur when drivers lose control of their vehicles trying to avoid an animal. Do not take unsafe evasive actions. It is usually safer to strike the deer than another object such as a tree or another vehicle.
  • Motorcyclists need to be especially careful; fatality rates are higher in deer-motorcycle accidents than in deer-car crashes.
  • If you hit a deer, pull over onto the shoulder, turn on your emergency flashers, and watch for traffic before exiting your vehicle. Do not try to remove a deer from the roadway unless you are sure it is dead; an injured deer could hurt you. If you have a cellular phone, dial *47 (*HP) for the nearest Highway Patrol dispatcher or *KTA for assistance on the Kansas Turnpike.
  • Anyone involved in a vehicle-deer crash that results in personal injury or property damage that totals $1,000 or more is required to immediately report the crash to the nearest law enforcement agency. Failure to report any traffic crash is a misdemeanor and may result in suspension of driving privileges.
Last year we wrote an award-winning illustrated story about how to increase safety during this time of year you can read that here:

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

KDOT creates new Twitter page to spread the word about job openings for engineers

The Kansas Department of Transportation is a great place to work and has open positions waiting for you. We want you to know all about it!

KDOT has recently launched a new Twitter page designed to list information about job vacancies.

Alex Colon, an Engineering Associate at KDOT’s headquarters in Topeka, said that he enjoys working at the agency because it feels like a family environment. “I like working for KDOT because of the people that I work with and the work I do,” Colon said. “It makes me feel good about coming into work every day. The work is fun, but challenging at the same time. I’m learning new things on a daily basis and I’m definitely enjoying my time here.”

Debbie Wallace, Engineer Recruiter for KDOT, also said that working for the agency has a family atmosphere. “KDOT means a lot to me because of all the people I have gotten to work with and how friendly everyone is,” Wallace said. “The support has been overwhelming to me in my 12 years here. Being the Engineering Recruiter I get to work with all of the universities in the Midwest and have met so many wonderful students. Some of these students I had the opportunity to recruit. I take pride in finding the right fit for this agency.“

CJ Garwood is also an Engineering Associate at headquarters in Topeka, and he said that KDOT is full of people who are eager to help him succeed.
“I appreciate that attitude and supportive environment,” Garwood said.

Leroy Koehn, a Professional Civil Engineer from the Kansas City Metro Area said that part of what makes KDOT a great place to work is the sense of teamwork and great communication.

"One of the things I’ve appreciated more and more as my time with KDOT lengthens is the willingness of our “family” to help each other out," Koehn said.  "If you’re facing a challenge you haven’t seen before, or if you want new perspective on a familiar and recurring problem, valuable and sincere feedback is usually just a phone call or email away.  I’ve found this to generally be true both up and down the org chart.  This wouldn’t happen so readily in the private sector where a greater inherent level of competitiveness tends to exist."

Bruce Haverkamp, Assistant to the Director of Engineering and Design, has been working at the agency for more than 30 years, and he said that his experience working for Kansas has been rewarding. “I’ve worked on design projects in every part of the state,” Haverkamp said. “The work environment has a true family feeling that makes work enjoyable. Designing a highway project takes a team and working with all of the different Divisions and Bureaus has been very rewarding.”

KDOT currently has more than a dozen engineering positions open. If you are interested in what positions may be right for you, or if you want to find out more information, follow us on the new Twitter page:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Poster winner donates prizes to kids in need

Austin Lamb, pictured in the center,  a regional winner in the Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day poster contest donates his prizes to school children in need. 

Normally when someone wins a prize, the winner keeps everything for themselves. For one youngster, winning means giving to others in need.

Austin Lamb, a statewide and regional winner of the Kansas Department of Transportation’s Put the Brakes on Fatalities poster contest, takes an extra interest in participating each year.

His interest stems from when his dad was hit by a car while on duty as an Osage County Sheriff’s Office Deputy. Lamb witnessed the accident and now actively promotes traffic and law enforcement safety by entering this contest.

This is Lamb’s way of trying to make a difference at this age. His poster this year encourages drivers to pay attention when you see those in uniform helping stranded motorists.The various officers assisting communities across Kansas are keeping us safe  and Lamb wants everyone to keep officers safe as well.

Austin Lamb's winning design encourages drivers to pay attention when officers are assisting other motorists. 

For being a statewide and regional winner, Lamb won several prizes including:  A new bike, a bike helmet, a Kindle Fire Tablet and case, a $50 Amazon gift card and a $50 Wal-Mart card. 

This is the second year that Lamb was the regional poster contest winner and this year he is donating his bike from last year to a child in need.  Lamb also plans to donate the new Kindle Fire Tablet, tablet case, and Amazon gift card to his school. These gifts from Lamb will be raffled or auctioned off; and all proceeds will be used to purchase sports balls for elementary students to use for recess. 

Lamb would like to thank the group of people that attended his presentation:  His dad Richard, his mom Nancy, his sister Taylor, and his Grandma Beverly. He would also like to thank Lieutenant Dax Lewis of the Kansas Highway Patrol, Deputy Scott Brenner of the Osage County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Robert Brenner of the Osage County Sheriff’s Office and the Osage City Chief of Police Fred Nech. 

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 www.Kandrive.org 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 www.ksdot.org 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.