By this time next year, installation of cable median barriers could be complete along two particularly dangerous stretches of Kansas Highway 10 between Eudora and Overland Park.
It is hoped that the Kansas Department of Transportation project, estimated to cost $800,000, will help reduce the number of so-called crossover accidents on the busy highway that links Lawrence with the greater Kansas City area. Obviously, no cable will completely solve the problem.
But the cables will be a start.
Lobbying for new safety measures on K-10 began last April, soon after a 5-year-old Eudora boy was killed when a vehicle crossed the median and smashed head-on into the minivan in which the boy was riding. The driver of the vehicle that crossed into oncoming traffic also died in the accident.
The family of the boy, Cainan Shutt, advocated for “Cables for Cainan” and were joined by many others on their mission. Eudora Mayor Scott Hopson wrote a letter to Gov. Sam Brownback asking the governor to direct KDOT to install cable along 23 miles of median from Lawrence to Interstate 435 in Johnson County. KDOT formed a committee of officials and residents from Douglas and Johnson counties to discuss the issue.
And while the entire 23 miles won’t get cables, KDOT’s decision last week to install the cables along four miles of the highway is a great initial step. If the cables indeed save lives, the state should review whether to install them along the other 19 miles of the highway.
However, a troubling question remains: Is the road the problem or are drivers the problem?
Often, the answer is drivers.
Many drivers are speeding. There’s no doubt about that. And some drivers are intoxicated or high. Law enforcement reports following accidents corroborate that.
So what’s the plan to address those issues?
It appears KDOT will lobby the Kansas Legislature to designate K-10 as a highway safety corridor to make the road eligible for increased enforcement of traffic laws — and higher fines for people who break those laws.
Drivers who speed or drive impaired on K-10 must be told in no uncertain terms that there are severe penalties for putting other drivers and their passengers at risk.
It’s time for even more voices to join Cainan Shutt’s family in the lobby for a safety corridor designation.
This is a message that Kansas legislators must hear.