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Archive for Monday, March 14, 2005

KDOT hopes added police presence will help law click

March 14, 2005

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Expect to see several police vehicles along U.S. Highway 59 this week.

"We're going to have heavy enforcement there," said Lawrence Police Sgt. Dan Ward.

Area law enforcement agencies will heavily patrol the 30-mile stretch of highway between Lawrence and Ottawa for four consecutive days starting Wednesday.

The Kansas Department of Transportation's Bureau of Traffic Safety has organized the mobilization.

"The objective of these enforcement efforts is to bring attention to highway safety and ultimately save lives," said Pete Bodyk, chief of KDOT's Bureau of Traffic Safety.

Law enforcement officers will look for traffic violations. But an emphasis of the mobilization is to make sure drivers and passengers follow Kansas seat belt laws, which require all vehicle drivers and front seat passengers to buckle up. All children under 14 must be properly restrained, and children under 4 must be seated in an approved child safety seat.

Sixty-eight percent of people surveyed in Kansas wear seat belts, said Chris Bortz, assistant chief of KDOT's Bureau of Traffic Safety. Kansas ranks 43rd out of 50 states when it comes to using seat belts, he said.

"That's not good," Bortz said. "That's one of the reasons we're doing this. We want to get those numbers up. We want to get those seat belts on."

The Kansas Highway Patrol, sheriff's departments in Douglas and Franklin counties, and police departments in Lawrence and Ottawa are participating in the mobilization. Organizations involved will receive money for overtime pay, Bortz said.

This is the second year KDOT organized a mobilization of law enforcement along state highways. Bortz said last year that KDOT selected long stretches of highway that went from border to border. State agency officials decided to focus on shorter stretches of highway with heavy traffic this year. In addition to U.S. 59, law enforcement will focus on Kansas Highway 177 between Council Grove and Interstate 70.

Bortz said there were plans to do the same thing along five other corridors over a seven-month period.

The hope is that drivers and passengers in vehicles will be safe while traveling along Kansas roads, Bortz said.

Last year, 456 people were killed in vehicle accidents in Kansas. Most of them weren't wearing a seat belt. About 2,000 suffered disabling injuries, and 23,000 suffered relatively minor injuries.

Bortz said advertisements had been on local radio stations to remind Northeast Kansas residents to buckle up, especially along U.S. 59.

KDOT spent about $20,000 on advertising about the mobilizations along U.S. 59 and K-177, Bortz said. The state agency spent about $300,00 on advertising its statewide mobilization efforts last year, he said.

"We think it helps with reminding people," Bortz said.

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