Posts tagged with Transportation

Olathe man injured in rollover accident on K-10 near De Soto is released from the hospital

A 30-year-old Olathe man was injured Thursday afternoon in a rollover accident on Kansas Highway 10.

The accident occurred about 5 p.m. According to a report from the Kansas Highway Patrol, the man, identified as Robert Tyson Campster, was driving a Honda Accord eastbound on K-10 near Kill Creek when the vehicle went to the right, then back to the left before rolling five times in the median.

Campster was taken to Overland Park Regional Medical Center, with what was believed to be minor injuries. By Friday morning, he had been discharged from the hospital.

By George Diepenbrock and Joe Preiner

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K-10 panel to recommend higher fines, tougher enforcement

A committee studying the safety of Kansas Highway 10 from Lawrence east to Interstate 435 agreed Tuesday night to ask the Kansas Legislature to designate the four-lane highway as a “highway safety corridor” to increase fines for traffic infractions and allow for additional enforcement on the busy commuter road.

Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, attended the meeting in Eudora and indicated he would begin working on a bill to propose for the 2012 legislative session.

“It’s my understanding this would mean enhanced enforcement and increased fines so that we make people aware that we have a safety issue here, and we’re serious” about drivers obeying the speed limit and traffic laws, said Rick Walker, a De Soto city council member.

It was the first concrete recommendation from the committee formed in the wake of the April 16 cross-median crash near Eudora that killed two of the city’s residents, including 5-year-old Cainan Shutt.

Gov. Sam Brownback has ordered the Kansas Department of Transportation to work with Douglas County and Johnson County residents and officials to study KDOT’s policy for placing cable median barriers on K-10 and make other safety recommendations.

Clay Adams, KDOT’s northeast Kansas district engineer who is co-chairman of the committee with Eudora Mayor Scott Hopson, said other states have targeted dangerous stretches of highways with higher fines and tougher enforcement. Hopson said after the meeting he also planned to ask the Eudora Police Department to patrol for speeding drivers more on the portion of K-10 that is in the city limits.

Members of the Johnson County Commission last month proposed a pilot project to install a cable median barrier along two portions of K-10 where more than one cross-median fatality crash occurred since 2000 — a two-mile stretch near K-10 and Kansas Highway 7 in Johnson County estimated to cost $250,000 and the one-mile portion in Eudora near the April 16 accident estimated at $125,000. Johnson County as part of the plan would provide the state with 20 percent of the funds for the Johnson County stretch.

Adams also said Tuesday KDOT has asked Dean Sicking, a University of Nebraska civil engineering professor, to study one-mile stretches of the state’s four-lane roads and identify dangerous “hot spots” that might be candidates for a cable median barrier due to the number of accidents and other factors like speed.

Cainan Shutt’s grandmother Carie Lawrence, a committee member, said hundreds of people have signed a petition asking the state to install cable median barriers because they believe K-10 is an unsafe highway. KDOT officials have said cable median barriers won’t stop all injuries and deaths.

“I’m not here to say we don’t want to put cable median barriers up on K-10,” Adams said. “We just want to make sure that if we do we don’t create a problem worse than what we have out there now.”

Adams also told committee members KDOT has awarded a $4.3 million bid to Hamm Co. of Perry to begin work on expanding shoulders on K-10 in Douglas County and installing rumble strips on the inside shoulder meant to alert drivers who veer onto it. The project, scheduled to begin in September and end Nov. 4, also includes milling and repaving of the driving lanes.

By George Diepenbrock

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New DUI law tougher, but loopholes still exist Central database, tougher penalties can’t keep all drunken drivers off streets

In 2008, a Wichita mother and daughter were killed by a drunken driver as they walked to school. The driver, Gary Hammitt, 57, was still on the road despite having four convictions for driving under the influence, or DUI.

The incident spurred two state-sponsored commissions and led to a new DUI law that went into effect July 1.

But Hammitt’s DUI history could be considered paltry compared with some drivers booked into Douglas County Jail last year.

A Lawrence Journal-World investigation identified 18 people booked into Douglas County Jail in 2010 for their fourth or more DUI charge; there are drivers cruising local roads every day despite six and seven DUI arrests.

Then there’s 56-year-old Baldwin City-area resident Randolph Holder.

Since 1977, Holder has been convicted of DUI at least nine times, most recently in March, though that case is being appealed.

Covering a span of 34 years, Holder has been jailed, fined, placed under house arrest and had his license suspended and revoked.

But nothing has kept Holder from driving drunk.

Holder — who, along with his attorney, declined comment for this report — isn’t alone in the state, said Mary Ann Khoury, director of the DUI Victim Center of Kansas in Wichita.

“We’ve seen 18, 19, 20 (DUI convictions),” she said.

Holder’s case highlights some of the problems the new DUI law tries to address.

But will the new law keep drivers like Holder off the road?

No way to know

For starters, Holder’s case highlights the inconsistencies in how the state tracks DUI offenders. A search of Holder’s criminal history through the Kansas Bureau of Investigation shows six DUI convictions. Obtain his driving record from the Kansas Department of Revenue, and only three show up.

Holder, however, has nine total convictions, according to Douglas County Assistant District Attorney Greg Benefiel. Benefiel prosecutes most of the county’s DUI cases and has access to Holder’s pre-sentence investigation report, which isn’t open to the public under Kansas open records laws.

“One of the issues is the fuzziness of the records,” said Benefiel, explaining that not all Kansas municipalities have consistently submitted such cases to state databases.

As part of their investigation, prosecutors must call each municipality where they think someone may have been convicted of a DUI. Benefiel said that if he suspects the accused has been convicted somewhere in Johnson County, for instance, staff would need to check all 18 municipalities in the county.

“It’s a very time-consuming process,” he said.

But that’s not the end of it. A prosecutor must get the records to prove the case, and also prove that the offender was represented by an attorney. But sometimes those records aren’t kept.

So is there any way to know how many DUI convictions a person in Kansas has? Probably not, Benefiel said.

Is it possible someone in Kansas has 100 DUIs and is still driving around?

Unlikely, but it’s possible, he said.

That’s one of the issues the new DUI law addresses, in the form of a central DUI repository, or database, to track the state’s DUI offenders. In essence, law enforcement and prosecutors will need to search only one database to find out how often someone has been convicted or arrested for a DUI, and all municipalities are required to participate.

Clean slate provision

But the repository comes with a caveat, one that wipes the slate clean for some offenders. Any DUIs committed prior to July 1, 2001, cannot be included in an offender’s total. In Holder’s case, that would mean that if he is convicted of another DUI — which would be his 10th — it would be counted as only his third offense, which carries fewer penalties.

Khoury, of the DUI Victim Center, is fuming about that stipulation, as well as other aspects, that she says don’t make Kansas roads any safer.

Kansas roads are among the most dangerous in the country when it comes to alcohol-related fatalities. Several years ago, Kansas ranked well below the national average in alcohol-related fatalities per million miles driven. In 2010, the state’s rate was 40 percent higher than the national average. In addition, the number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in Kansas increased more than 50 percent between 2005 and 2009.

The law simply didn’t go far enough to make a significant impact, Khoury said.

“We failed victims in what the Legislature put forth from our recommendations. We failed,” she said.

Khoury favored a “lifetime look back” for DUIs, so someone like Holder would receive the most severe punishment for his crime — up to a year in jail and lifetime use of an ignition interlock that prevents him from driving if he has been drinking. But if someone committed all their DUIs before 2001, regardless of how many they had, they’d avoid serious jail time.

Restricting the look back to 10 years “was putting us back in the dark ages,” Khoury said.

Ignition interlock

Over at one of the local businesses that installs ignition interlock devices — Garber Automotive, 2216 W. Sixth St. — business is booming, said owner Micah Garber. Businesses like Garber’s are seeing a spike in ignition interlock installations thanks to the new DUI law, which requires even first-time offenders to use the devices. How long DUI offenders must use an ignition interlock varies, but in some cases it can be for up to 10 years.

Garber explained how the ignition interlocks work. Offenders pay a $45 installation fee, and Garber’s crew installs the devices in about 30 minutes. The device is connected to a vehicle’s ignition, and to start the car, someone needs to blow into a hand-held device, which records the Blood Alcohol Content, or BAC. While the legal limit in Kansas is a BAC of .08, the ignition interlock won’t allow the vehicle to start if someone blows over a .04. If someone registers over the limit, they get two retests within the next 15 minutes. Fail those, and the car locks up. Offenders must also pay a $75 monthly fee, and data from the devices is downloaded and sent to probation officers.

The device has provisions to prevent ways of skirting the system, said Jamie Krumsick, who coordinates distribution of interlock devices for Kansas Guardian Interlock.

“The device is a lot smarter than people give it credit for,” Krumsick said.

What if someone else, who’s sober, blows into the device to get it started for a drunken person?

They won’t get too far, as the device will ask for occasional rolling retests, beginning after about five minutes. If the device requests a retest, drivers have 300 seconds to blow into the device before locking up.

But what if a sober passenger blows into the device for a drunken driver whenever the retests are requested?

Krumsick answers that with a question of his own.

“Why is the sober person not driving?” he said.

Good point, but Khoury, from the DUI Victim Center, said she’s heard cases of drunken parents making their children blow into the device for them.

For someone determined to drive drunk, there are other ways around the interlock.

The new law doesn’t require someone to install an ignition interlock. But if they drive then they must legally use one. So you could simply not install one and roll the dice that you won’t be pulled over. Or have one installed, use it when sober, but use a second vehicle — without an interlock — when drinking.

Refusal

One of the drawbacks of the new DUI law, said State Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, is the failure to close a loophole for drivers who refuse to take a Breathalyzer when pulled over. Owens served on the DUI Commission and has spent five years trying to reform Kansas DUI laws.

Here’s the choice offenders can make when they’re pulled over for drunken driving:

• Take the Breathalyzer, fail, and then be subjected to jail time, be fined and use of an ignition interlock for a year.

• Refuse the Breathalyzer, which will trigger an automatic one-year license suspension, then be required to use an interlock for one year. While you could still be prosecuted for DUI under the second option, it’s much more difficult to prove without the Breathalyzer. Prosecutors are left with field sobriety tests administered by the on-scene officer, said Owens, who has been a prosecutor, defense attorney and judge in his career. He’s seen cases in which someone refuses a test and evades a conviction for DUI.

An offender like Holder could simply refuse next time and have his license suspended, while taking his chances in court on the DUI charge. In the past, that doesn’t seem to have had much of an effect. Since 2009, Holder’s license has been revoked or suspended at least five times.

Consequences?

More jail time, ignition interlocks, increased fines — no matter what the law requires, those most addicted to alcohol or drugs don’t fear the consequences, said Lisa Carter, an addictions counselor with DCCCA.

That’s one of the lessons she’s learned in more than 15 years in the addictions field.

“They start losing things — jobs, homes, relationships,” she said. “Everything crumbles.”

It comes down to a choice, and if an addicted person isn’t ready for that, “It’s not going to change,” Carter said.

The only foolproof way to keep the most habitual drunken drivers off the road would be incarceration. The new law sets one year as the maximum sentence a judge could give, even if someone has 10 DUIs.

Owens, however, said the state’s sentencing guidelines allow for a judge to impose a prison sentence for felony DUI convictions, if someone has an additional criminal history. At what point that would happen, and how it would be applied by the legal system, is not clear.

The Kansas Department of Corrections, in its 2010 population report, showed that 27 offenders were in Kansas prisons for DUI, while 42 were imprisoned for vehicular manslaughter DUI.

Other aspects of the new law will have to play out over time. The 54-page law is complex, and some defense attorneys interviewed for this report admitted to not understanding all of the provisions.

“This is so new,” said John Frydman, a Lawrence attorney who handles several DUI cases. “We’re all just feeling our way through this.”

Even at its strongest, the law will probably not keep the most habitual drunken drivers off the roads for long.

For some, like Hammitt, who had four previous DUIs when he killed the mother and daughter, it takes a death to remove them from the roads. For his crimes, Hammitt was sentenced to 39 years in prison and won’t be eligible for parole until he’s 87.

“You have people who aren’t going to get any better,” Owens said. “They’re not going to stop (driving drunk).”

By Shaun HIttle

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Alcohol believed to be a factor in Saturday morning K-10 fatality

The Kansas Highway Patrol has identified the fatality victim in a Saturday early morning K-10 accident as 23-year-old Ezequiel Gallardo-Moncalla of Kansas City.

Gallardo-Moncalla died after his Mazda 626, driving the wrong way in the westbound lanes on K-10 just west of Interstate 435, struck a Ford F150, driven by 28-year-old Olathe man Brian Ingalls.

According to Kansas Highway Patrol captain Dek Kruger, initial reports indicated Gallardo-Moncalla turned off of South Ridgeview Road onto the highway going the wrong direction and officers where unable to provide assistance before the crash occurred. Kruger said alcohol was believed to be a factor in the incident.

Ingalls was transported to Overland Park Regional Hospital. A hospital spokesperson said that Ingalls was in stable condition as of 1:15 p.m. Sunday, but could not release any other information.

By Shaun Hittle and Nick Nelson

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KDOT warns drivers to expect weekend delays

Drivers can expect multiple delays this weekend as several highways in the metro area undergo continued repair work, according to a traffic alert from the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Drivers should plan alternate routes or be prepared for lengthy delays. The following closures will take place, beginning at 7 p.m. tonight and reopening at 5:30 a.m. Monday:

  • Northbound Interstate 35 from 119th Street to 135th Street will have two closed lanes;
  • Southbound I-35 from 95th Street to College Boulevard will have two closed lanes;
  • All ramps from westbound Interstate 435 to I-35;
  • Northbound and southbound I-435 will be reduced to one lane.
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Lexington Avenue to be reduced to one lane Friday from 83rd Street to Ottawa

Lexington Avenue will be reduced to one lane tomorrow while contractors work to crack seal between 83rd Street and Ottawa. Work should begin between 7-8 a.m. and, if work goes according to plan, should finish between 3:30-4 p.m.

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KDOT website to experience down time during maintenance

Drivers should expect to only see the base map on the Kansas Department of Transportation's 511.ksdot.org website today instead of the usual interactive information regarding road conditions and construction projects. Phone services are down as well.

The website and phones will be down until noon today for general maintenance, according to a press release sent out by the department. The KanDrive site will still be available.

More maintenance work is scheduled for Saturday, July 23, from 4:30 a.m.-6 p.m., which will also temporarily disable KDOT websites and phones.

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Johnson County commissioners propose project to install K-10 cable-median barriers

Members of the Johnson County Commission on Thursday proposed a pilot project to install cable-median barriers along Kansas Highway 10 in two spots between Lawrence east to Lenexa.

Commissioner Jim Allen, of Shawnee, said the proposal includes the state installing two miles of cable near K-10 and Kansas Highway 7 in Johnson County and for a one-mile stretch near Eudora, after two residents, including 5-year-old Cainan Shutt, were killed in an April 16 cross-median crash there.

“Our residents are concerned about this and want us to come up with some type of solution,” said Allen, who is also a member of an area group studying K-10’s safety with the Kansas Department of Transportation in the wake of the April crash.

The Johnson County proposal estimates the two-mile stretch of cable in Johnson County would cost $250,000 and $125,000 in Douglas County. Allen said Johnson County would seek to provide the state 20 percent of the funds for the Johnson County stretch.

Gov. Sam Brownback ordered KDOT officials to work with Johnson County and Douglas County residents and officials to study whether to install cable-median barriers on K-10, although KDOT would make the final decision. KDOT said in a 2008 study that K-10 did not meet a threshold to install cable-median barriers based on traffic counts and the highway’s median width.

Advocates for the cable say K-10 has become dangerous for the number of cross-median crashes at high speeds. In May, KDOT officials said K-10 had 11 fatalities resulting from 10 cross-median crashes since 2000, compared with 104 fatalities from 89 cross-median crashes on all Kansas four-lane highways.

Dean Sicking, a University of Nebraska civil engineering professor who conducted the 2008 study, said cable-median barriers are “not a panacea” and still can cause deaths and injuries. He urged the committee to study the two spots targeted for the pilot project proposal.

“It has to be based on reality and based on engineering principles,” said Sicking, who spoke to the study group Thursday, “so that we can be reasonably sure that when we do go out and spend money to make the highway safer, we do make it safer. That’s the ultimate goal.”

Allen said the two sections identified as part of the pilot study do warrant a cable-median barrier because more than one cross-median fatality accident have occurred in those two spots since 2000.

“We want to see something happen immediately, and to me at least to do something incrementally and address at least where we know we have a high-impact fatality area,” Allen said.

The study group will meet again next month.

By George Diepenbrock

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New state law removes cities’ ability to set their own fines for seat belt violations

Click it or Ticket soon will have a little less bite in cities across the state.

A new state law that takes effect Friday will require all Kansas cities to charge a $10 fine for failure to wear a seat belt and also removes a city’s ability to charge court costs to prosecute the violation.

Opponents of the law change say the result will be significant: Fewer cities will properly enforce the seat belt law.

“I think that is exactly what will happen, and I think that is exactly what the Legislature’s intent was when it passed this law,” said Kimberly Winn, deputy director for the League of Kansas Municipalities, which lobbied against the bill.

In 2010, the state passed a new seat belt law that allowed motorists to be pulled over and ticketed for not wearing a seat belt. Previously, law enforcement officers couldn’t pull a motorists over solely for a seat belt violation. That 2010 law limited the fine to $5, but the law was written in a way that cities could set their own fines.

Winn estimated at least 20 to 25 of the state’s largest cities took advantage of that ability and set fines that were significantly higher than the $5 state level.

But Winn argues that a majority of legislators weren’t enthusiastic about changing the state’s seat belt law in 2010. They did so because it made the state eligible for federal transportation grants that ended up totaling a little more than $11 million. Now, some seat belt advocates argue the state is trying to minimize the law.

“Ten dollars is certainly less than a parking infraction in many cities,” said Judy Stone, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “It sounds like a bit of retaliation of sorts.”

A state legislator who supported the change, however, said it was made out of fairness. Rep. Vince Wetta, D-Wellington, said the 2010 law never would have passed the Legislature if lawmakers thought some cities could charge nearly $100 for a ticket.

“Some local entities were using this as a money-making machine,” Wetta said.

Wetta said there is a strong sentiment in the state that people shouldn’t be made to wear a seat belt.

“I definitely have heard from people who say we are taking people’s rights away from them,” Wetta said. “They believe they ought to have the right to not wear a seat belt. In a way, I believe the same thing, but when you look at the statistics about the lives seat belts save, they’re hard to argue with.”

Wetta said he thinks even a $10 fine, combined with education, will be enough to encourage motorists to use seat belts.

By Chad Lawhorn

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Proposed electric vehicle charging stations in Kansas City could spur electric cars in Lawrence

A project that will bring 10 electric vehicle charging stations to the Kansas City metro area is good news for a consortium in Lawrence that wants to make the use of electric vehicles feasible in northeast Kansas.

On Friday, Kansas City Power and Light revealed eight locations in Kansas and Missouri where the charging stations will be placed. The $300,000 project is being partially funded with $150,000 in stimulus money funneled through the U.S. Department of Energy.

The news comes just as the first electric vehicle charging station is preparing to open in Lawrence. The second charging station in the state, the Lawrence station is part of Kansas University’s Center for Design Research on west campus, a building meant to showcase the latest in green technology.

Expected to open this summer, the charging station will be free and open to the public 24 hours a day.

“It is going to be a catalyst for a lot of really great things,” said Greg Thomas, the chair of the Center for Design Research.

Westar Energy also has plans to put in a charging station at its service station on E. 27th Street. That charging station will be available to the public and is expected to open later this summer.

It’s hoped that having charging stations scattered through Lawrence and Kansas City will make people more confident about purchasing electric cars, Thomas said.

While electric vehicles are beyond the point of being limited to a 100-mile range, having stations in Kansas City will make it easier for Lawrence electric vehicle drivers to make the trip and perhaps top off on electricity if needed.

“If they do (the 10 stations) and we do our share here in Lawrence, I think that it is going to be a huge momentum or impetus for things to start happening,” Thomas said.

The electricity from the 10 changing stations in the Kansas City area will be free to the public until at least 2013. However, users will have to pay a nominal fee to the electric vehicle manufacturer, Coulomb Technologies. Lily Pad EV will be the vendor for the charging stations. The stations are expected to open by spring.

Locations of KCP&L electric vehicle changing stations:

  • Black and Veatch, Overland Park.

  • The city of Lee’s Summit, Lee’s Summit, Mo.

  • Commerce Bank, Kansas City, Mo.

  • Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Kansas City Mo.

  • Heartland Hospital, St. Joseph, Mo.

  • Two stations at Johnson County Community College, Overland Park.

  • Two stations at Park Place Village, Leawood.

  • Union Station, Kansas City, Mo.-

By Christine Metz

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