Editorial Roundup: Kansas

Manhattan Mercury. June 28, 2022.

Editorial: A silver lining after unimaginable tragedy

It’s the nature of news that we mostly report “bad” things. So we were glad last week to be able to share something positive — or at least, a positive outcome that followed a terrible tragedy.

In December, middle-schooler Jean-Carlos Vasquez-Ponce, known as JC, was critically injured in a fatal car accident on Kansas Highway 18. The Kansas Highway Patrol said a 17-year-old lost control of her Chevy Trailblazer, and the vehicle went into a ditch, struck a bridge pillar and caught fire.

Two other middle schoolers died in the crash, and two more people sustained minor injuries. Vasquez-Ponce, 14, was flown to University of Kansas Medical Center, then transferred to Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Vasquez-Ponce’s list of injuries was quite long, and a family friend told The Mercury that for a time, they weren’t sure whether he would make it.

“It was bad,” said Lawrence De Hart, speaking for the family. “A lot of times we were just kind of waiting to plan his funeral because it just seemed really bleak.”

The teenager faced severe burns, broken bones and injuries to a number of internal organs. Treatment initially included life support and a medically induced coma.

But miraculously, Vasquez-Ponce began to recover.

After six months at Children’s Mercy — months that included physical, occupational, and speech therapy — he came home to Manhattan.

We’re heartened to hear about ways people have pitched in to help the family. The local Habitat for Humanity helped by building a ramp at his house to make his home wheelchair accessible. De Hart started a Go Fund Me to help with expenses. The Alms Group produced a video with messages from family and friends to show their support.

Vasquez-Ponce still has a long road ahead of him, but we’re so impressed by the progress he’s made. We wish him and his family the best.

And to the families who lost a child in the crash: we’re so sorry for your loss. We can’t imagine what you’ve been through and the pain you’re surely still enduring six months later. Our hearts go out to you.

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Topeka Capital-Journal. July 1, 2022.

Editorial: Kansas highways will get you where you need to go, but drivers need to lay off the pedal a bit

You can see a lot on Kansas highways. They link the Flint Hills to the High Plains. They link the Red Hills to the prairie. And so much more in between.

It appears motorists in Kansas might have a lead foot.

The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Tim Hrenchir reported the Kansas Highway Patrol has issued 6,883 tickets as of June 15 to motorists this year alleging they drove 20 mph or more above the speed limit, according to KHP Lt. Candice Breshears.

We would like you to slow down on our state’s highways. That may sound like an overreaction, but we’re concerned. Occasionally the obvious needs said out loud. It’s common sense, but it also saves lives. So here we are. And once more for good measure, slow down.

It’s certainly something we’d like you to ponder as many of us will venture out this weekend for Independence Day celebrations.

Hrenchir reports that Kansas is on pace to finish this year with 15,134 such citations, which is more than the 15,060 issued by the KHP in 2021, the 14,022 issued in 2020 and the 10,577 issued in 2019.

Last year the Kansas Highway Patrol clocked Juan Garcia driving an Audi A7 driving at speeds exceeding 200 mph in Chase County.

Hrenchir reports Garcia subsequently pleaded guilty to DUI and reckless driving as part of an arrangement through which the other charges were dismissed, court records show.

While this case is an outlier, it shouldn’t be overlooked. Excessive speeds are dangerous. Drinking and driving is reckless and wrong.

Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent Herman Jones told a Kansas legislative committee last February that drivers who exceed the speed limit endanger their own lives and those of other motorists.

Speeding reduces the effectiveness of occupant protection equipment, such as seat belts and air bags, while also reducing the effectiveness of such roadway safety measures as guardrails and median barriers, he added.

“When one’s speed doubles, one’s stopping distance quadruples, making every increase in speed an exponentially more dangerous act,” Jones wrote.

Please heed Superintendent Jones’ warning. Please heed ours. Drive safe. Don’t drink and drive. Wear your seatbelt. It’s just common sense.

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