December 21, 2014

Review TSA guidelines before flying this holiday season

Transportation Security Administration agents screen about 1.8 million passengers every day at airports across the country. Air travel will increase this week as people head home for the holidays and TSA Federal Security Director for Nebraska Paul Ross suggests those flying take time to review list of items of what is prohibited to take on a plane. He says every month in Nebraska they collect about 300 pounds of prohibited items.

Ross says most of the items collected from passengers are knives but they have also found cattle prods, a cane sword, hay bale hooks and even a pair of spiked shoes. He says so far this year agents uncovered 13 firearms compared to seven in 2013. He says passengers can either surrender those items or they will be taken by agents. Those items are turned over to the State Surplus Agency. Those wanting to retain those items can give them to a family member not flying or travelers can also mail them home from the airport. Many of these items, including firearms, are allowed in checked baggage if they meet certain requirements.

For those flying this holiday season Ross has several tips. He says don’t wrap gifts. If they have to conduct a search all packages will be opened. Liquid items more than 3.4 ounces are prohibited as carry-on and that includes wine or other alcohol, syrup, jelly and jam.

Ross says airports are very busy places this time of year so allow enough time to make it through security checkpoints. They recommend 90 minutes before flight time.

Nebraska hoping for long-term highway funding solution

patch2[1]Nebraska hopes to learn soon how much highway construction money might be coming from Washington.

State Department of Roads Director Randy Peters says he hopes Congress re-authorizes the Federal Highway Trust Fund soon.

“We’re looking for re-authorization to go, hopefully, more than six months, more like six years. But Congress needs to act on that before May. We’re just waiting to see,” Peters tells reporters during a conference call on slated Nebraska highway construction projects.

Gov. Dave Heineman says it would seem that the trust fund might be something a normally divided Congress could agree on.

“It seems to me this is one of the areas where you would think there would be bipartisan support at the federal level to do a six-year program rather than a six-month extension,” Heineman says. “I think it’s important for the country. It’s important for the states, I know that. We need the federal government to be a good partner with us.”

Federal money for roads, bridges, and other infrastructure projects will run out May 31st if Congress doesn’t act. It would take approximately $6.5 billion to keep the Highway Trust Fund financed through the end of the fiscal year in September of next year. It would take about $100 billion for a six-year transportation bill.

One of the problems standing in the way of renewal is the erosion of the funding source. More fuel-efficient cars have undermined the gas and diesel tax that haven’t been raised since 1993.

Nebraska completed 107 highway improvement projects this year, 18 more than last year. The Nebraska Department of Roads has let contracts for 150 projects during the 2015 Fiscal Year.

The 21st Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation ranked Nebraska 2nd in the nation for overall highway performance and cost effectiveness.

Be careful as you travel this Thanksgiving holiday weekend (AUDIO)

policelightbarMany Nebraskans take to the road today, one of the biggest travel days of the year.

The Nebraska State Patrol wants you to be safe out there.

Colonel David Sankey, Superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, says the rules of the road are simple.

“Don’t drive impaired, whether that’s drunk or drugged. Wear your seat belts. Slow down and don’t drive distracted,” Sankey says. “When people do those things, then I think we can end the year on a positive note and we won’t have any more fatalities.”

We had 16 in October. So far this year, 188. That’s a more deadly pace than the last three years, especially 2011 when Nebraska had only 150 traffic deaths at this date.

Sankey says his troopers will be out in force this Thanksgiving holiday weekend to enforce traffic laws in an effort to keep deaths down.

“We’re doing what we can. We hope that trend goes down,” Sankey says. “We just need everybody’s help to make that happen.”

The Nebraska Department of Roads reports the 16 traffic deaths in October came in 16 separate crashes. Two fatalities occurred on the Interstate, eight on non-Interstate highways, and six occurred on local roads. None of the 14 vehicle occupants killed were wearing safety belts. Two fatalities were pedestrians.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

AAA predicts best Thanksgiving travel weekend since 2007

Those going home for Thanksgiving will have company on the roads and in the air. Triple-A released their travel outlook for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Nebraska spokesperson Rose White says they predict 46.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home between Wednesday, November 26th and Sunday, November 30th.

White says 89% of those traveling will drive. Those traveling by air will join about 3.55 million others over the next few days  AAA reports this will likely be the highest volume for Thanksgiving holiday travel since 2007 with a 4.2% increase over last year’s 44.4 million. 

AAA reports airfare is up about 1% from a year ago. Car rentals are up about 10% and the average weekend daily rate will total $55. White says that cost will be offset by lower prices at the pump. Gas prices are down about 43-cents from last year at this time. Hotel rates are up 8% and the average room will cost about $154 this year compared to one year ago.

AAA’s report shows 89% of travelers will spend time with family and friends during the holiday weekend, 59% plan to shop and 70% will enjoy dining out.


Couple who lost daughter to drunk driver urge use of designated driver (AUDIO)

Todd Calfee speaks at a news conference in the governor's residence along with his wife, Jaimie. NSP Supt. David Sankey looks on.

Todd Calfee speaks at a news conference in the governor’s residence along with his wife, Jaimie. NSP Supt. David Sankey looks on.

A couple who lost their 19-year-old daughter in a drunk driving accident plead with Nebraskans to not drink and drive.

Todd and Jaimie Calfee of Bennett told their story to reporters during a news conference at the governor’s residence.

“On September 9th, 2011 our lives were completely devastated when we were greeted by two sheriff’s deputies, two very brave sheriff’s deputies, who came to tell us that our daughter had been killed,” Todd Calfee stated. “Later, we found out that she was killed by a six time convicted drunk driver.”

The news conference hosted by Gov. Dave Heineman and First Lady Sally Ganem in the governor’s residence kicks off the “Tie One On For Safety” red ribbon campaign sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving to highlight the tragedy of drunk driving and raise awareness that drivers shouldn’t get behind the wheel after drinking, but rather should have a designated driver.

The Nebraska State Patrol also participated.

MADD and Nationwide Insurance have released a national survey in which 75% of the respondents said they would designate a driver if they were out drinking so that everyone could get home safely. About 45% also added they would designate a driver so they wouldn’t get a DUI.

Todd Calfee speaks with 1st Lady Sally Ganem outside the governor's residence. Gov. Dave Heineman and Andrea Frazier with MADD Nebraska are in the background.

Todd Calfee speaks with 1st Lady Sally Ganem outside the governor’s residence. Gov. Dave Heineman and Andrea Frazier with MADD Nebraska are in the background.

The Calfee’s daughter, Alexis, and her boyfriend, Chris Oberg, died in a traffic wreck while driving back to Wayne State College.

“Our lives will never be the same. They are changed forever. Our hearts are broken,” Todd Calfee said “The holidays were the best times of our lives, when all the family and friends got together. Now there’s an empty place that sits at our table. And, it makes it pretty devastating.”

Highway safety officials say the dangers of drunk driving increase during the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve holidays, holidays in which alcohol often plays a prominent role in the celebrations.

AUDIO:  Gov. Dave Heineman and MADD host news conference kicking off “Tie One On For Safety” campaign. [12 min.]