As Kansas roads will be busy with holiday travelers going to and from their destinations this week, KHP and other agencies are mobilizing to participate in the annual Special Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP), courtesy of a grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation.
"Once again, the Kansas Highway Patrol will be out on Kansas roadways during the busy Thanksgiving holiday," KHP Public Information Officer Lt. Joshua Kellerman said. "Every year, we strive to make our roadways safer, ensuring motorists get to their holiday destinations. Please enjoy the holiday with your loved ones, and make it memorable for all of the right reasons. Remember, designate a sober driver and buckle everyone up, every trip, every time."
Kellerman said the grant is open to all local law enforcement agencies throughout the state.
KHP and other agencies plan to focus on impaired drivers, child passenger safety laws, and seat belt use among travelers of all ages. Because of the STEP campaign funding, there will be more law enforcement officers on Kansas' streets and highways during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday period when travel increases in Kansas and across the nation, a news release said.
"We'll be real busy," Kellerman said. "We're looking for most any violations out there. During the day, we're not doing so much DUI enforcement as making sure people get to their destination safely."
Kellerman said troopers will be available to assist the public for such roadway assistance as vehicle breakdowns and flat tires.
"We don't want to necessarily make them have a bad trip," he said. "During the holidays, we keep a heavy presence out on the roadways."
Fort Scott Police Department Chief Travis Shelton said the FSPD has participated in the STEP program for several years.
"They say Tuesday is the biggest travel day of the year," he said. "It's an effort to keep people safe and prevent accidents."
Through the grant, the FSPD has been able to receive items and equipment related to traffic enforcement ¬-- such as raincoats, winter jackets and flashlights -- over the years, Shelton said.
"At designated times during the year, at high-traffic times or holidays ... they reimburse police agencies overtime for the extra patrol," he said. "We document who was working and what they were doing. We submit the data to the state level."
"It's nice to be a part of, and it saves on funds," he added.
As far as concerns locally with people traveling through Fort Scott, Shelton said officers watch main roads for problems that most often occur, such as speeding or missing the traffic lights.
"Maybe they miss catching the speed limit reduction signs," he said. "The main artery through town is our biggest concern through the high-traveled times of the year."
According to preliminary KDOT stats, during the 2012 Thanksgiving reporting period, there were 629 collisions, resulting in 203 injuries and five deaths. Of these crashes, 32 were alcohol related, resulting in 23 injuries, but no deaths. For 2012, the reporting period was from 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21 through noon Sunday, Nov. 25, a 102-hour reporting period.
The reporting period this year will be from 6 p.m. Wednesday through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1.
"We're always trying to reduce fatalities; our goal is zero," Kellerman said. "We don't want anybody to die on the roadways. Through vigorous enforcement of DUI laws, hopefully we'll reduce fatalities."
Before hitting the road for travels, KHP encourages motorists to consider the following tips:
* Make sure the vehicle is in good working order. Check tires' depth and air pressure; check vehicle's fluids, exhaust system, and other mechanical equipment. If traveling in cold conditions, make sure added precautions are taken for the cold weather.
"Make sure the car is ready to go and it will hopefully prepare you for any troubles during travel," Kellerman said.
* The vehicle should also be stocked with items that would be beneficial if involved in a crash, such as: bottled water, blankets, non-perishable food, first aid kit and flashlight with extra batteries.
* Make sure to plan the route of travel and communicate this to family members, in case the motorist is involved in a crash or experiences mechanical problems with the vehicle.
"Have a plan. Know your destination and route; plan ahead," Kellerman said.
* Charge cell phones before leaving in order to make important calls if needed.
* Dress for the weather. If planning to travel in cold weather, make sure to have a coat in the vehicle and warm shoes in case there is a need to stop for any reason.
* Check the route of travel for road conditions and/or construction work or other delays before leaving. KDOT provides an improved 511 system for motorists to use. Call 511 from any phone, or visit www.kandrive.org to check roads in Kansas.