Students seek support for Safe 75 Campaign
Student Council members from multiple schools ask commissioners to sign a petition and write a letter of support for the Safe 75 Campaign.
Multiple students from Sabetha, Wetmore and Nemaha Central came before the Nemaha County Commissioners during their Tuesday, Feb. 19, meeting to ask for their support for a new campaign to make U.S. Highway 75 safer.
Students present for the presentation were Anna Cochenour, Hunter Lowdermilk, Henry Glynn, Sofia Kuenzi and Hannah Whittaker, all from Sabetha; Ally Davis from Wetmore; and Riley Bontrager, Austin Gerety, Abby Younghans and Shayla Heiman, all from Nemaha Central.
These students — along with students from Jackson Heights, Holton, Royal Valley, and Hiawatha — are promoting the student-led Safe 75 Campaign, which seeks to improve U.S. Highway 75 from Holton to Sabetha. The group met Monday, Feb. 11, at Jackson Heights High School to brainstorm ideas on how to improve the safety on U.S. Highway 75.
During their presentation, the group noted that there have been more than 300 accidents, 11 fatalities – which included two students from Jackson Heights and three members of a Sabetha Family – over that last six years, in addition to approximately 60 injuries on the stretch of Highway between Holton and the Nebraska State line.
The group asked commissioners to show their support for the Safe 75 campaign by signing a petition and writing a letter of support. The students plan to present their petition, letters of support, and ideas to make U.S. Highway 75 safer to the Kansas Department of Transportation and Public Safety Budget Committee.
Some of their ideas include installing lights, such as timed traffic lights or lights to illuminate intersections; adding or extending turning and acceleration lanes; adding J turn lanes at dangerous intersections such as exits to Horton, Netawaka and Jackson Heights, where there have been fatalities; monitoring traffic more frequently along the highway or lowering the speed limit in the areas with dangerous turns.
In addition to these ideas, the students said they are working on an educational campaign at their schools to raise student awareness about safe driving practices, but they need a “multi-pronged” approach with improvements to infrastructure to increase safety along with more education.
“We ask that as you make budget decisions, you give KDOT the necessary funding to approve improve U.S. 75 Highway’s safety, allowing them to conduct a study allowing them to determine which steps can be taken now to create a safer passage for travel,” Davis said, quoting a proposed letter students plan to present at the Statehouse.
The group also noted that they understood this part of the Highway was on Governor Laura Kelly’s 10-year plan but they asked for action to be taken as soon as possible.
“Although we know that making U.S. 75 Highway four lanes from Holton to Sabetha is on the governor’s 10-year plan, we ask that you make changes now to the fatal stretch of Highway 75 north of Holton,” Davis said. “What is clear is that we can no longer stand idly by while people continue to be killed or severely injured on this stretch of highway.”
The county commissioners agreed to sign the petition and write a letter of support.
The next week, on Monday, Feb. 25, Cochenour and Whittaker came before the Sabetha City Commission during their regular meeting to ask for their support, as well.
Commissioner Maridel Wittmer expressed that she is pleased the students are taking a stand on this issue.
“This might be the best wake-up call,” Wittmer said.
The city commissioners agreed to write a letter of support for the campaign. Each commissioner also signed the petition.
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Heather Stewart is a reporter for The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2015. She specializes in court and sports reporting, as well as photography. Heather is a 2011 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in psychology. She lives in Sabetha with her husband.