KCK tops national list for safest driving cities

Kansas City, Kan., is at the top of the list for safest driving cities in the United States, according to Allstate Insurance.

The company issued a news release today stating that the average driver in Kansas City, Kan., will have a collision every 13.3 years, compared to the national average where drivers experience a collision every 10 years.

Brownsville, Texas, was No. 2 on the list of safest driving cities, followed by Boise, Idaho, Fort Collins, Colo., and Cape Coral, Fla.

Wichita, Kan., was ranked No. 11, Olathe was No. 14 and Overland Park, No. 32, on the list.

Kansas City, Kan., ranks seventh when population density and first when precipitation is considered, the report stated.

“As a trusted adviser to Allstate customers in Kansas City we’re sharing these report results to help them become safer drivers,” said Jason Park, Allstate agency owner in Kansas City, Kan. “While Kansas City ranks highly on the report, slowing down, leaving room between you and other drivers, and minimizing distractions are tips for Kansas City’s drivers to always remember to remain safe while on the road.”

Recently, the National Safety Council estimated the U.S. is on track for its deadliest driving year since 2007, according to the report.

For the first six months of 2015, NSC reported that nationally, traffic deaths are up 14 percent from a year ago, and serious injuries are 30 percent higher over the same period. While there are many factors that affect highway safety, an improving economy and lower gas prices have led to an increase in the number of miles being driven.

The Federal Highway Administration’s latest Traffic Volume Trend Report says cumulative travel for 2015 is up by 3.5 percent. The June report is based on hourly traffic count data reported by the states, using data collected at approximately 4,000 continuous traffic counting locations nationwide.

Allstate visually depicts the report in an interactive map found at www.allstate.com/BestDriversReport. The map features the America’s Best Drivers Report with historical collision frequency rankings from the past 11 years in an interactive format.

New this year, the report provides information about a notable factor in collisions – braking habits — in approximately 100 cities nationally. Allstate pulled data from its Drivewise® offering, an innovative technology that allows consumers to monitor their driving habits to improve safety and gain discounts on their insurance, to determine braking trends. A hard braking event is defined as slowing down eight miles per hour or more over a one-second time interval.

Allstate found a correlation between hard braking and collision frequency. Cities with higher collision frequency also recorded more hard braking events. Nationally, on average, a driver will experience 16 hard braking events for every 1,000 miles driven.

Cities in Kansas with larger numbers of hard-braking events included Wichita, Olathe and Overland Park.

Driving tips for cities with high braking activity:
• Leave room between you and other vehicles. Hard braking collisions often occur when drivers are following each other too closely causing rear-end collisions. Try to avoid rear-end collisions by leaving more space and time to react to other vehicles’ actions.

• Minimize distractions while driving. Distracted driving is one of the main causes for collisions.iv Common driving distractions include eating, grooming, talking on a cell phone or texting, interacting with other passengers, adjusting navigation devices and playing loud music.

In addition to the traditional collision frequency rankings, two unique rankings among the top 200 largest cities are featured in the 2015 report. These location factor rankings include population density and precipitation, and show how some cities’ rankings can change when taking these challenging roadway conditions into consideration.

Kansas City, Kan., tops the list for densely populated cities in Kansas, followed by Wichita, Olathe and Overland Park.

Driving tips for densely populated cities:
• Allow plenty of time to reach your destination. Stop-and-go traffic, gridlock, traffic signal stops, pedestrian walkways and events that create traffic detours can add time to your travel.

• Stay alert. Be prepared to frequently stop or slow down for pedestrians, emergency vehicles, delivery trucks, parking cars, taxi cabs, and public transportation vehicles such as city buses.

Kansas City, Kan., is at the top of the list for rankings in Kansas when factoring in precipitation, followed by Wichita, Olathe and Overland Park.

Driving tips for cities with high levels of precipitation:
• Be aware of road conditions. Ice, snow, fog, rain – all of these weather conditions require extra caution and slower speeds. Stopping safely in rain and snow takes greater lengths of roadway than in dry conditions.

• Maintain your vehicle to prepare for extreme weather. Headlights and brake lights are critical in low visibility situations – be sure they are consistently maintained along with other critical car functions such as brakes and windshield wipers.

Advocates alerted to potential cuts in child care assistance, programs

by Dave Ranney, KHI News Service

A national expert on the federal government’s plan for reforming its support for child care says Kansas has a lot to be concerned about.

“When you look at Kansas, you see that you’ve lost lots of children who were receiving child care assistance and that you’re paying very low rates to child care providers who serve families getting assistance,” said Helen Blank, director of child care and early learning at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C. “You don’t want that, and you don’t want that to be cut any further.”

Blank addressed a forum Monday in Topeka on policy issues tied to the federal government’s pending rollout of its Child Care and Development Block Grant program, which generates about $42.2 million annually in federal funds for early childhood development and child care assistance programs in Kansas.

The forum was a project of Kansas Action for Children, an organization that advocates for children and families. About 40 people — a mix of child care providers, education officials and early childhood development instructors — attended the four-hour session.

Blank and Stephanie Schmit, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Law and Social Policy based in Washington, D.C., asked the group to realize that while many of the reforms built into the federal reauthorization are meant to improve quality and expand access to services, the measure does not guarantee additional funding.

So the challenge that child advocates and state officials now face, they said, is to find a way to finance the mandated improvements without cutting state-funded support for child care services.

Kansas child advocates, Blank said, should resist “being embarrassed” about asking lawmakers for additional funding.

It’s not yet clear how much the mandates are likely to cost.

Most of the mandates are expected to focus on tightening background checks for child care providers, exposing providers to additional on-site inspections, ensuring low-income families’ access to child care assistance and increasing pay for providers.

Some of the changes may mean that lawmakers will have to alter provisions in a recently enacted welfare reform law.

In early August, Kansas Department for Children and Families officials shelved enforcement of a provision that would have blocked families on public assistance from using their state-issued debit cards to withdraw more than $25 a day from an ATM.

The new law, called the Hope Act, also reduced low-income families’ access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families from 48 months to 36 months.

In Kansas, the numbers of children in families on TANF have fallen significantly in recent years from roughly 13,600 children per month in 2011 to 5,000 per month in 2015.

The number of families receiving child care assistance also has declined, said Amanda Gress, a policy analyst with Kansas Action for Children, going from 21,200 in 2008 to 12,800 in 2014.

Gress also noted that state-sanctioned surveys have found that DCF’s child care assistance program pays providers between 35 percent and 40 percent of what families not on public assistance pay.

After the federal reauthorization takes effect, the state will be expected pay close 75 percent of the market rate.

In Kansas, families are eligible for child care assistance if their incomes fall below 185 percent of the federal poverty level, which is about $3,100 a month for a parent with two young children.

Payments vary depending on the number of children and their ages. Most parents have co-pays.

Congress agreed to both reauthorize and reform the grant program in 2014, directing states to file new plans by June 2015. The deadline was later pushed back to March 2016 due to delays in crafting rules and regulations that define what states will and will not be allowed to do.

Kansas Action for Children’s chief executive, Shannon Cotsoradis, said Monday’s forum was meant to set the stage for a discussion in both the public and legislative arenas on how the state will respond to the reauthorization act.

“There is no indication at this point that we can count on additional federal dollars coming in,” Cotsoradis said. “That’s not to say they won’t be there, but there’s no guarantee. So the state needs to devise a plan that recognizes that those dollars may not be forthcoming.”

Last week, Cotsoradis let it be known that a months-long efforts to include DCF officials in the discussion had been unsuccessful.

Though they were invited, no one from DCF or the Kansas Department of Health and Environment attended Monday’s forum.

Theresa Freed, a spokesperson for DCF, said the department’s Child Care Licensing Systems Improvement Team will host a similar forum from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Kansas Association of School Boards office, 1420 SW Arrowhead Road, in Topeka. The meeting, she said, will be open to the public.

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KCKCC golf to rebuild after 5th place finish in 2015 national

by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC

Gary Shrader has a tough act to follow in his 15th season as Kansas City Kansas Community College golf coach but then he has no one else to blame but himself.

Last year, Shrader assembled the most successful Blue Devil golf team in history. With a team made up entirely of Kansas City, Kan., area players, the Blue Devils finished fifth in the NJCAA Division II national tournament. However, with success comes graduation and four of the five Blue Devils who played in the 2015 national tourney have departed for four-year schools.

Only Mark McClain, a sweet swinging southpaw from Bonner Springs returns. First team All-Region and All-Jayhawk Conference honorable mention, Shrader expects McClain to lead the way in 2015-16.

“Mark is capable of playing in the red (below par) every time he goes out,” Shrader said.

From there, it’s a real shootout for the other four starting berths.

“For a few of our practice rounds we’ve had 10 players shooting under 80,” Shrader said. “Getting those kinds of scores this early from new young players on courses they don’t know is exciting. I would say on any given day we have about six players who could play the No. 2 position.”

To break up the logjam of challengers, Shrader is taking 10 players to the opening meet of the year, the Allen County Quadrangular to be played at Emporia Golf Club.

“I’m going to take as many two five-man teams to tournaments as I can,” Shrader said.

While McClain is the only returning starter, sophomore Colton Allen of Shawnee Mission Northwest and UMKC mid-term transfer Evan Shartzer of Blue Valley North saw varsity action this past spring as did Zach Spencer, a transfer from Baker University. In addition, there are three candidates who red-shirted last year, sophomore Dalton Ayres of Newton and freshmen Jeremy Dunham and Matt Thayne of Hesston.

“It’s a pretty solid lineup of seasoned players,” Shrader said. “Allen and Shartzer played behind a pretty strong lineup.”

Heading the list of promising newcomers are Cody Foster of Shawnee Heights Tecumseh, Jack Barnhart of Hesston and Micah Morris of Guthrie, Okla., the team’s lone non-Kansas player, along with Blaine Smith of Piper and Zach Wurtz of Topeka Hayden.

“Some have been impressive with their work ethics,” Shrader said. “But until you get into tournament conditions at the college level you just never know. That’s why we will play as many players as we can.”

After the opening Allen County Quadrangular at Emporia Golf Club Sept. 2-3, the Blue Devils will compete in invitational tournaments held by William Woods April 11-13, Central Methodist Sept. 20-22 and Missouri Valley Oct. 6-8.The final two events are in the Kansas City area, the Avila Invitational at Swope Park Oct. 11-13 and the Park Invitational at The National’s two courses in Parkville Oct. 19-20.

Kansas City Kansas Community College
2015 Golf Schedule

Sept. 2-3 – Allen County Quadrangular Emporia GC
Sept. 11-13 – William Woods Invitational Fulton, Mo. (Tanglewood)
Sept. 20-22 – Central Methodist Invitational Boonville, Mo.
Oct. 6-8 – Missouri Valley Invitational Marshall, Mo.
Oct. 11-13 – Avila Invitational Swope Park
Oct. 19-20 – Park Invitational National, National II

2015-16 Golf Roster
Yr. Hometown (High School)
Colton Allen Soph. Overland Park, KS. (SM Northwest)
Dalton Ayres Soph. Newton, KS. (Newton)
Mark McClain Soph. Bonner Springs, KS. (Bonner Springs)
Evan Sharzer Soph. Leawood, KS. (Blue Valley North)
Blaine Smith Soph. Kansas City, Kan. (Piper)
Zach Spencer Soph. Olathe, KS. (Olathe East)

Jack Barnhart Fr. Hesston, KS. (Hesston)
Jeremy Dunham Fr. Derby , KS. (Derby)
Cody Foster Fr. Shawnee Heights, KS. (Tecumseh)
Micah Morris Fr. Guthrie, OK. (Guthrie)
Matt Thayne Fr. Hesston, KS. (Hesston)
Zach Wurtz Fr. Topeka, KS. (Hayden)

Head coach – Gary Shrader (15th season)