November 28, 2014

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.]

Upgraded 511 website a better guide for traveling Nebraska

NDOR traffic camera discloses road conditions in western Nebraska

NDOR traffic camera discloses road conditions in western Nebraska

With winter weather approaching, perhaps sooner than we might like, the Nebraska Department of Roads says its newly streamlined 511Travel Information website offers motorists solid information on road conditions they travel.

Department of Roads spokeswoman Mary Jo Oie says recent improvements have made the information offered on the website even more user-friendly with the condition of roadways, cameras at certain junctions, and an additional layer that indicates the traffic speeds on different roadways.

Oie says another new feature aims to help the commuter.

“And there’s also a new option to create an account for commuters who like to travel certain routes and you can save those routes and then you can get an alert either sent to you by text, or email, or cell phone to let you know if the road conditions are changing,” Oie tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KHUB.

Not to alarm anyone with the forecast indicating temperatures will plummet throughout the state this week, a quick check of NDOR cameras disclose roadways partially covered with snow.

Connie Green, KHUB, contributed to this story.

NRD board in Beatrice area to vote on bike trail today

BikeTrailA vote is expected today by the Lower Big Blue Natural Resources District Board to take ownership of a bicycle trail in southeast Nebraska.

Colleen Schoneweis, with the Nebraska Trails Foundation, says the 20-mile stretch runs from the Kansas border north, toward Beatrice.

“We’ll help them in maintaining with volunteer people and volunteer money and fundraising,” Schoneweis says. “We really need their support and their board members to vote for this.”

The Trails Foundation has already raised $150,000 to be placed in an account for future maintenance of the trail.

“We’re going to do multiple events to keep raising money for the trail so it doesn’t cost the NRD money or the taxpayers money or surrounding landowers money,” Schoneweis says. “We don’t want that. We want it to be a very fun, nice trail. It benefits the whole community.”

Annual maintenance on the trial could run between $500 and $1,500 per mile.

Schoneweis says a federal effort is supported by Nebraska Congressional members to name it the Chief Standing Bear National Trail.

Connecting with other trails, it could mean a more than 200-mile continuous trail connection from Marysville, Kansas to Omaha to near Blanchard, Iowa.

She says the developed trail could have an economic impact along the Big Blue River for running events, kayaking and other recreation.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice