In 2011, Kansas hit the gas.
Thatís when the state raised the speed limit 5 mph to 75 mph on several hundred miles of highways.
Raising the speed limit made sense in putting Kansas in line with other states in the region that allowed 75 mph on certain roadways. Advocates noted the economic development benefit in making highways more attractive to truckers and other travelers.
Highway design improvements and enhanced vehicle safety were cited in an attempt to ease concerns of those who feared the risk in higher speeds.
But fast forward to today, and statistics compiled by the Kansas Transportation of Department show a significant jump in fatalities due to accidents on highways with the 75 mph limit.
The overall number of crashes remained flat, but the number of deaths shot up more than 50 percent on affected roadways. Busy Interstate 35 saw the biggest increase in fatalities of the Kansas highways involved.
Injuries also were up on 75 mph roads.
In addressing the disturbing trend, it would be easy to zero in on the speed limit alone. Wrecks do become more treacherous at higher speeds.
Still, other factors must be considered ó not the least of which would be the growing threat of distracted driving.
Phone conversations ó to include hands-free communication ó make it tougher for drivers to focus. And even though texting and other digital communication while driving became illegal in Kansas in 2010, too many motorists continue the dangerous practice. They should disable communication devices when vehicles are in motion.
Intoxicated drivers and the threat of deer on the roads are other obvious dangers.
Another issue would be seat belt compliance. While Kansas made a long overdue move in 2010 to toughen its seat belt law, many travelers still wonít comply. Paltry fines for offenders donít help.
Highway engineers, law enforcement authorities and policymakers have an obligation to better understand all factors that contributed the spike in traffic-related deaths and injuries on Kansasí 75 mph roads.
While higher speeds likely played a part, itís worth noting that lawmakers also crafted laws intended to keep people safe ó policies that, when ignored, too often lead to tragic consequences on the road.