KHP officials say distracted driving could have role in increased traffic deaths


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – “Inside of this work zone on I-235 where we replaced five bridges, we had a smart work zone,” said Tom Hein, a public affairs manager for the Kansas Department of Transportation. “One of the things it told us was that there were about 100 incidents, accidents, crashes in the work zone.”

The KDOT says those accidents were mainly caused by speeding and distracted driving.

It’s a problem Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Tod Hileman says has been a large factor in traffic deaths this year, especially when it comes to cell phones.

“You go to a restaurant, go anywhere in our world today, you’ll see everybody in there staring at a phone,” said Hileman. “And if you don’t think that’s translating to behind the wheel of a vehicle, it is.”

AAA says 420 people have died in Kansas traffic accidents so far this year.

That’s up more than 12 percent from this time last year.

The Kansas Highway Patrol puts a lot of the blame on distracted driving.

Trooper Hileman says a quarter of accidents right now are due to cell phone, which is a large number, despite a state law making it illegal to text and drive.

“If we see someone on a cell phone as we’re driving, we’ll turn around and stop them for that and a lot of times they will go off the shoulder, cross the center line, do something else illegal, we’ll stop them for both of those violations,” he said.

Wichita police officials say the city gave out 24 texting while driving citations for 2016.

This year, the numbers are way up with over 100 given out so far.

Although it is against the law to text and drive in Wichita, some cities in Kansas take it a step further with a hands free ordinance, which means you can’t even hold your phone while driving.

It’s something Trooper Hileman would like to make a statewide law to make writing distracted driving citations much easier.

“If we see someone with a cell phone in their hand while they’re driving, right there that’s all we would need,” he said.

Some people may not be aware, but it is also against the law to text and drive even if you’re stopped at a light.

That’s because you can back up traffic.

It’s also illegal to search social media sites while driving.

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