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Slow Down, Drive Sober and Buckle Up

Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) Operations Sergeant Grant Ruark has been promoting traffic safety in Kansas City for more than a decade. Ruark is a recent partner with The Research Foundation’s Young Traffic Offenders Program (YTOP). His long list of extracurricular activities are a big asset in helping to keep Kansas City’s roads safe.

Sgt. Ruark graduated from Missouri Southern State University with a bachelor’s and associate’s degree in criminal justice in 1991 and joined the KCPD 24 years ago. He started out in narcotics prevention and was promoted to traffic and road safety 16 years ago. He is the KCPD representative for the Destination Safe Coalition and is currently the Missouri co-chair for Operation Impact, a collaborative effort from police departments in the Greater Kansas City area to reduce the number of people injured in vehicular accidents.

Looking to extend his reach, Sgt. Ruark began speaking at YTOP a year ago.

“It is a great program,” Ruark said. “I think it is important to start [talking to young people about road safety] early. If they make a mistake and it is not addressed, the problem will fester until something truly bad happens.”

Sgt. Ruark was in traffic enforcement for 13 years and saw more than enough tragedies to commit his career to sharing the consequences of distracted driving.

“I responded to several fatalities throughout those 13 years and I’ve read fatality reports of accidents that involved alcohol or [lack of] seat belts. Unfortunately, I’ve had a lot of exposure.”

The result of this exposure has led him to focus on three concepts: speed, impairment and distracted driving. Sgt. Ruark said he emphasizes distracted driving, as it relates to reaction time, at YTOP.

“If you are texting and driving or emailing and driving, you aren’t reacting. You are running over things.”

In YTOP, he asks attendees to track the time it takes to send a text message. The times are used to calculate distance traveled at certain speeds, which are often long distances of little to no awareness of the road. Sgt. Ruark said most of the youth attending the program are surprised by the demonstration’s results, a sign his message is being delivered.

“I tell them to treat their time in the car as their time and not anyone else’s. I don’t text, email or call while I’m driving. My  time in the car is my time.”

While he feels that YTOP is successful in teaching young people about making responsible decisions behind the wheel, Sgt. Ruark never misses an
opportunity to spread his message.

“You have got to slow down, drive sober and buckle up.”