‘We have cars blowing our doors off’: Kansas sees a spike in speeding

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GARDEN CITY, Kan. — In a year where many people have been stuck at home for work, school, and most everything in between, state traffic officials are reporting a spike in roadway violations, KSNW reported.

The Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) is part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Region 7. This past year, patrol units tracked the changes in traffic violations, and all are saying, 2020 has been a year of speed. In Kansas, KHP troopers have seen a 68% increase in excessive speeding throughout 2020. Excessive speeding meaning, 100 mph or faster.

“The speeders are a dime a dozen, they’re anywhere from five over to triple digits numbers, people are in a hurry, ” said KHP Master Trooper Scott Koehn, Troop G. “They think the faster they go, the faster they’re going to get there. Unfortunately, they end up in crashes, and sometimes they live, and sometimes they don’t.”

“We weren’t the only state. Nearly every state saw similar increases in speeding during the pandemic,” said Chris Bortz, Kansas Department of Transportation traffic safety program manager.

Violations rose in all Region 7 states. Nebraska saw a 70% jump, Missouri experienced an 82% increase, Arkansas rose to 89%, and Iowa saw an increase of 108%.

NHTSA Region 7 speeding violation increase (KSN Photo)

“We have a lot of people out here that will pass us with our markings on our patrol car that say state trooper, has our badge, we’re clearly identified, and we’re doing the speed limit, and we have cars blowing our doors off,” said Koehn.

“We are seeing high speeds on all parts of our roads, it’s not just in or around our big cities. It’s in our rural areas too,” said KHP Technical Trooper Michael Racy, Troop E.

With the rise in speeds has come an increase in deaths. 

“Speed is a major factor in fatalities,” said Koehn.

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) report’s preliminary results show nearly 15 more people died in traffic accidents in 2020 compared to the year before.

I think everybody anticipated the fatalities would be down,” said Bortz. “What we saw from law enforcement and from reading through crash reports is that a major factor was speed.”

“We’re seeing that cars running into each other with higher speeds, they’re causing more damage to the cars. They’re causing more injuries. Our bodies aren’t handling the higher speeds,” said Racy.

“We have a lot of people out here that will pass us with our markings on our patrol car that say state trooper, has our badge, we’re clearly identified, and we’re doing the speed limit, and we have cars blowing our doors off.”

KHP Master Trooper Scott Koehn

But with higher speeds, came fewer travelers. The Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA) reports 6.8 million fewer drivers traveled the turnpike in 2020. KDOT reports it saw an average 10% traffic decrease.

“The preliminary data is telling us that the vehicle miles traveled was down about 10% in 2020 compared to 2019. We saw a dramatic decrease in March, not quite as bad in April, and then, they got closer back to normal, but we never really recovered from that significant drop,” said Bortz.

Officials are now urging drivers to slow down and buckle up.

“It takes everybody to do their part, it takes everybody to obey the speed limits. You may be the best driver in the world, but the fact is you’re sharing the road with a lot of people that may not have their full attention on the road,” said Bortz. “Wear your seatbelt, 50% of our fatalities typically are not belted, so that is truly the number one thing that you can do when you get behind the wheel.”

Officials say although there was a dramatic decrease in roadway travelers in 2020, it’s still not safe to speed and the speed limits are posted for a reason.

 “Obey the speed limit and always buckle up. I hate to see crashes that could’ve been prevented,” said Racy.

“At 75 mph or even faster, the chances of them crashing increases. It takes us from making traffic stops for speed violations to working crashes, shutting down the highway, and maybe causing secondary crashes. It leads to bigger problems,” said Koehn.

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