A silver Honda Civic zipped down Kansas Highway 10, traveling 10 mph faster than the posted 70 mph speed limit.
Little did the driver know that Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Travis Jones was driving in the opposite lanes of the highway, just waiting for someone to whiz by.
Jones clocked the driver with his radar unit, flipped a U-turn in the median, accelerated to speeds well above 100 mph, set off the lights of his patrol cruiser and pulled the driver over.
“You guys traveling for the holidays?” Jones asked the driver Wednesday afternoon, before letting her off with a warning ticket.
The driver, who was headed to Topeka to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family, was among the nearly 41 million Americans that AAA estimates will make trips of at least 50 miles this week.
Thanksgiving Day is the busiest travel day of the year in Kansas, followed closely by the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Kansas Department of Transportation spokesman Chris Bortz said.
And Jones is among law enforcement officers from more than 100 agencies across the state who will forgo spending Turkey Day with their families and, instead, crack down on drivers violating the law. The highway patrol puts 50 percent of its force on the roads during holidays, a higher percentage than on an average patrol day, said Jones, who generally patrols in Douglas and Franklin counties.
Lawrence police and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office are also participating in the patrols, in which officers are paid overtime to step up efforts to protect drivers during the busy Thanksgiving travel season. The Kansas Thanksgiving Enforcement Campaign began Monday and runs through Sunday.
The campaign’s intended to minimize traffic-related crashes, injuries and fatalities, by having officers focus on dangerous activities, including drunken driving and speeding, as well as child passenger safety laws and seat belt use among travelers of all ages.
“Our primary goal is to be out here and visible on the highway during the holiday travel,” said Jones, who picked up a few hours of overtime by coming in for the extended patrol. “The best we can do is just come out and make a presence and try to get people to slow down and wear their seat belts.”
Last year, officers in the state were paid $80,000 in overtime for the additional Thanksgiving period patrols, which are financed through KDOT using federal grant money, Bortz said. Almost 2,000 additional speeding tickets were written across the state during last year’s patrol, KDOT said.
During last year’s Thanksgiving reporting period, there were 945 crashes that killed nine people and injured 243 others, the KHP said. Of those crashes, 58 involved alcohol, which caused two deaths and 26 people to be injured.
Traffic was already thick on Douglas County highways Wednesday afternoon, and Jones said he expected it to increase as the night went on. He pulled over three cars in less than an hour during his patrol. One was ticketed for going 83 in a 70; the other, 80 in a 70. Their fines were $123 and $105 respectively, including court costs.