KHP increasing number of officers on patrol for Thanksgiving

KTA toll plaza (KSN File Photo)
KTA toll plaza (KSN File Photo)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Many people will hit the roads today headed to their Thanksgiving destination, but this year, the Kansas Highway Patrol has a new reason to crack down on distracted drivers.

KSN spoke with Trooper Chad Crittenden, a technical trooper for KHP who said there have been more fatal accidents on Kansas roads so far in 2016 than in all of 2015.

That’s concerning, he said.

Law enforcement officials can’t pin down one specific reason for the accident increases, Crittenden said. Especially considering the overall pleasant weather Kansas has experienced recently.

What KHP can promise is that they will be doing everything they can to reduce that number, he said.

Whether it’s driving under the influence or legal distractions like eating while driving or pets in the car, KHP will have extra officers on the roads looking out for distracted drivers.

“We’re really trying to drive that number back down, especially with the holiday weekend coming up here,” Crittenden said. “There’s going to be a lot of people traveling across Kansas, especially with the good weather and low fuel prices, so we’re just trying to ensure that we get everybody from point A to point B safely.”

KSN wanted to find out what it is that KHP is doing to make your holiday a little safer.

Because of the extra travelers that the holidays bring, KHP will be participating in a Special Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP).

The program is funded by a grant from KDOT that allows KHP to use more officers on the roads than usual, all to keep up with the expected increase in holiday travel.

What makes the holidays such a critical time for caution on the roads is that not only are Kansans traveling around the state, but a number of people from out-of-state will be making their way across the highways in Kansas to get to their destinations.

“With the major interstate systems running through; I-35, 335, I-70, 135, we see a lot of out of state travel passing through Kansas,” Crittenden said. “We’re going to see a lot of Kansas residents traveling through the state as well and leaving our state.”

Crittenden also suggests avoiding the roads altogether if you’ve had anything to drink, even within the legal limit.

“We understand that people are getting together with families and people they haven’t seen, and they like to go out and have a few drinks but the biggest thing we ask people to do is have a plan ahead of time,” he said.

If you’re driving over the holidays, KHP has a few suggestions to make sure you and your family stay as safe as possible on the roads. Some of those include:

  • First, make sure your car is working well. Check the tires’ tread depth and air pressure, check your car fluids, exhaust system and other mechanical equipment.
  • Second, stock your car with anything you might need, including bottled water, blankets, non-perishable food and a first aid kit.
  • Third, plan your route and let your family or friends know when you’re leaving so they know when to expect your arrival.
  • Finally, dress for the weather. Keep a coat and warm shoes in the car in case you need to stop anywhere unexpectedly or overnight.