Kansas traffic fatalities up 16 percent so far in 2016

(July 2016) Fatal accident near Holton
(July 2016) Fatal accident near Holton

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas transportation officials say more than 300 people have died in traffic accidents this year, a 16 percent increase over the same period in 2015.

Kansas Department of Transportation traffic safety manager Chris Bortz said there was a 7 percent decrease in traffic fatalities from 2014 to 2015. There were 385 traffic fatalities in 2014 and 355 in 2015. As of Monday, 307 people have died in traffic accidents so far this year.

Bortz said the increase is a national phenomenon and that distracted driving is likely one of the causes. About a third of traffic fatalities involve people driving while distracted, and about a third involve people driving while drunk or otherwise impaired.

Fifty percent of traffic fatalities in Kansas involve people who weren’t wearing a seatbelt, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/2dhVhHV).

Interim transportation secretary Richard Carlson said that even looking down at one’s cellphone for what seems like a short amount of time is dangerous.

“At 70 miles an hour, four seconds is a lifetime,” Carlson said at a news conference.

State officials and law enforcement gathered at the Statehouse to send the message that simple actions can reduce fatalities. Some include using a seatbelt on oneself and one’s children, putting the cellphone away when driving and refraining from drinking under the influence.

The Kansas Department of Insurance unveiled a campaign last month to gather #ItCanWait pledges from 40,000 to 50,000 Kansans saying they will not text and drive.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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