• Special to the Daily Leader
The Kansas Highway Patrol, along with local law enforcement agencies throughout the state, will be participating in the Kansas Thanksgiving Enforcement Campaign from Monday through Sunday, Nov. 28.
This Special Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) is funded by the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and is intended to minimize traffic-related injuries and fatalities.
The Patrol and other agencies will focus on impaired drivers, child passenger safety laws and seat belt use among travelers of all ages. Because of the STEP campaign funding, there will be more law enforcement officers on Kansas’ streets and highways during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday period when travel increases in Kansas and across the nation.
During the 2009 Thanksgiving reporting period there were 590 collisions resulting in 153 injuries, and six deaths. Of these crashes, 44 were alcohol related, resulting in 30 injuries and four deaths.
“The Kansas Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies across the state join KDOT in recognizing the importance and life-saving value of extra law enforcement presence during the high- travel holiday season,” Patrol Superintendent Colonel Terry Maple said.”
Those driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs endanger not only themselves, but also their passengers, other motorists and pedestrians. Across Kansas, six persons are killed or injured in nine alcohol-related crashes each day. Compared with non alcohol-related crashes, according to KDOT, vehicle occupants in alcohol-related crashes are more than two-and-a-half times more likely to be injured or killed.
Each week across Kansas, nearly 350 drivers are arrested for DUI. A DUI conviction will result in jail time, suspension of driver license, a fine of $500 to $2,500, participation in an alcohol treatment program, and it will become a permanent part of the driver’s record.
Failure to buckle up is also responsible for needless death and injury. Those who do not buckle up are about 12 times more likely to be killed and almost twice as likely to suffer injury as those who do buckle up. Even worse is the fact that injuries suffered by those who are unbuckled are likely to be much more severe and disabling than those suffered by an occupant who is restrained.
Unfortunately, many people incorrectly associate danger with speed in that they feel safe driving around town unbuckled and save buckling up for the highway and faster county roads.
According to the Kansas Department of Transportation, which tracks all crashes in the state, crashes are most likely to occur within a short distance from home, and even low-speed crashes such as 5-10 mph can turn unbelted occupants into human torpedoes.
According to Col. Maple, “Keep in mind that if you are going to be drinking – any amount at all – don’t consider driving home. Arrange to ride with a non-drinking acquaintance. Don’t let pride or convenience endanger your life and the lives of innocent others. Always wear your seatbelt and don’t move the vehicle until each person riding with you is restrained – it is your best defense, it’s their best defense, and it’s the law.
Travel can be made safer by allowing extra time to get to your destination, checking the road conditions before leaving and keeping your vehicle’s maintenance up to date.
Updated weather and highway conditions are available by calling 511 in Kansas or 1-866-511-KDOT from out of state. To view KDOT’s on-line road conditions, go to: www.ksdot.org/offTransInfo/511Info/511traffictravel.asp.