Fifty percent of traffic fatalities in Kansas involve people who were not buckled up. About a third involve people who are driving while distracted, and a third involve driving while drunk or otherwise impaired.
On Monday, the message to the public from state officials and law enforcement who gathered at the Statehouse was effectively this: Basic actions can reduce fatalities.
Examples include buckling up oneself and one's children, putting one's cellphone away while driving, and staying out of the driver's seat after drinking alcohol.
According to Chris Bortz, traffic safety manager at the Kansas Department of Transportation, Kansas saw a 25 percent year-on-year increase in traffic fatalities in 2015, when the total death toll hit 356.
This year to date, 307 people have been killed, which is 16 percent higher than the death toll over the same period last year.
Bortz said the upward trend is a national phenomenon and said he believes distracted driving is one of the causes.
Many drivers are convinced that using a cellphone while driving is safe, but even looking down for what seems like a short amount of time is not so short in the context of driving.
"At 70 miles an hour, four seconds is a lifetime," said interim transportation secretary Richard Carlson, speaking at a news gathering to draw attention to Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day.
He noted that driving while texting does not just affect the driver doing it, but also others on the road.
Last month, the Kansas Department of Insurance unveiled a campaign to gather #ItCanWait pledges from 40,000 to 50,000 Kansans indicating they won't text and drive.
Credit: Celia Llopis-Jepsen [email protected]