I-Team Investigation: Tickets and Fatalities

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WICHITA, Kan. -- Thirty people died on the street of Wichita last year. Police say the high number of fatalities can be blamed on speed and distracted or drunk driving.

All the while, the number of tickets officers are handing out have dropped dramatically.

On November 17th, just two blocks from home, Kevin Newman crashed his motorcycle into the back of a parked trailer. Nancy, his wife of nearly 36 years, rushed to the scene.

“I knew, that he was gone,” she said. “He was gone when they got there.”

Police say he was driving drunk.

“Kids love him, animals loved him,” Nancy said. “He was a very loveable guy.”

In 2013, Wichita police say 30 people died in traffic accidents—the highest number in five years. Ten were caused by speeding; eight were caused by distracted driving; and nine involved drunk driving. It’s a trend that Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams hates to see.

“Any time you have any traffic fatalities, whether it's one, it's a significant concern for us as far as the police department,” Williams said. “Because those can be prevented.”

What disturbs him even more are the numbers. While the number of deaths caused by speeding and drunk driving goes up, the number of speeding tickets and DUIs goes down.

Moving violations issued in 2010 was 72,983. In 2013, police handed out just 54,820.

DUIs dropped from 2,079 in 2010 to just over 1,300 in 2013.

Chief Williams blames it on having fewer officers on the streets. Last year, he says, staffing was down because of military call-ups, officers being injured, unfilled vacancies, and crime trends across the city.

“When you pull from here to address this here, yes, you are going to see a reduction in the number of tickets issued,” he said.

The chief is warning drivers to follow the laws, or else.

Williams has challenged each of the substation commanders to conduct 64 special assignments in 2014.

Officers will also be working special assignments to stop drunk drivers, hoping to prevent another senseless death, like Kevin Newman’s. He left behind a grieving widow who has her own advice…

“If you are going to go out drinking, don't go out riding, plain and simple,” she said.

Wichita police are hoping to get more patrol officers back on the streets in 2014. A new training class is set to begin in June with hopes of graduating 25 new recruits.

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