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Traffic fatalities up 5% in 2020 over 2019 in Kansas

Traffic fatalities in Kansas were up 5% in late December compared to the same period in 2019,...
Traffic fatalities in Kansas were up 5% in late December compared to the same period in 2019, officials said. (Kansas Department of Transportation)(Doug Stremel | Doug Stremel)
Published: Jan. 7, 2021 at 10:26 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Traffic fatalities in Kansas were up an estimated 5% in late 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, officials said.

Through Dec. 23, the state had seen 421 deaths on its roadways in 2020, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The state recorded 412 deaths on its roadways in 2019, KDOT said.

That number was up from the 401 fatalities recorded in 2018.

Kansas saw 461 traffic fatalities in 2017, 429 in 2016 and 355 in 2015.

KDOT officials said Thursday that final statistics for 2020 may not be available until all crash reports are received, which could take 30 to 60 days.

Chris Bortz, KDOT traffic safety program manager, told 13 NEWS that vehicle miles traveled on the state highway system is showing about a 10 percent decline in 2020 compared to 2019.

“Like many other states,” Bortz said, “preliminary information is pointing to excessive speed as the primary contributing factor to the increase in traffic fatalities 2020.”

To help curb the number of traffic fatalities, Bortz said those riding in cars should “buckle up” every trip, every time.

“Every year in Kansas,” Bortz said, “about 50 percent of traffic fatalities are unbelted.”

According to a KDOT survey, if the driver is belted, 98 percent of other front-seat passengers are belted.

However, if the driver isn’t belted, only about 33 percent of other front-seat passengers are belted.

According to a KODT survey, pick-up truck drivers buckle up about 75 percent of the time, compared to a 90 percent buckle-up rate for those driving cars, sport utility vehicles and vans.

Bortz also cautioned motorists to “obey the speed limit,” noting that “excessive speed not only puts you at risk, but everyone else on the road.”

Among other areas for motorists to remember and practice, Bortz said:

• Never drive impaired. “If you are impaired by any substance, you can be arrested for DUI,” Bortz said. “Any substance -- including alcohol, marijuana, illegal or legal drugs that can cause you to be impaired -- puts you and others on the road at risk.”

• Eliminate distractions. “Driving requires 100 percent of the driver’s attention,” Bortz said. “Therefore, it is important to just drive.”

Bortz added that “if you know someone is driving, refrain from texting or calling them.”

He added that “crashes are not accidents,” noting about 95 percent of traffic fatalities are attributed to driver error.

“As the driver,” Bortz said, “your number one goal is to reach your destination safely.”

As of Thursday, Bortz said, KDOT is estimating 2 people have lost their lives in traffic crashes so far in 2021.

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