Malicious intent or not, 3500-pound weapon
wields destructive potential

'You close your eyes for a second and you drive the length of a football field blindfolded.'

Reed Hollinshead
Office of Communications

“Your vehicle is a 3,500-lb. weapon,” said Garden City STEP (Selected Traffic Enforcement Program) coordinator Sgt. Blair Brannan. “Multiply that weight with the speed you’re traveling, and the destructive potential is phenomenal.”

With that, Sgt. Brannan begins morning traffic school, as he has done more than 50 times by his estimation. He also succinctly emphasizes the gravity of the situation and responsibility incumbent on all drivers, and figuratively kicks the chair legs out from under the barely-awake attendees of the Saturday morning class.

The class, formally called the Garden City Driver Safety and Education Course, promotes a safe driving environment through public education and safety awareness. Improving highway safety also is one of ITD’s core missions.

By paying the fine and completing the course, those with minor traffic infractions do not accrue points on their drivers record and nothing is reported to insurance, which makes it a popular alternative.

'On average, distractions – cell phones, cameras, the radio dial, mp3 players, makeup, shavers, magazines – deplete your concentration by 37 percent, which is worse than drunk driving.'

— Sgt. Blair Brannan

I am one of 18 people in the class that day, one of three classes offered that month. Sgt. Brannan estimates that more than 5,000 people have gone through the class in its three years.

He often volunteers to teach the class.

“I love to talk to people and to teach,” he explained. “To pass along what I know and my experiences.”

As a veteran of 21 years of police work with a father who put in 28 years with the state police and an uncle who did 32 years on the force, Sgt. Brannan has seen the destructive power of a vehicle (car, truck and motorcycle) unleashed too many times. He has an almost-imperceptible hitch in his step as a reminder of that destructive power. When on motorcycle patrol a few years ago, he was on the receiving end of punishment doled out by a young male driver who failed to see him in time.

“I had to choose between trying to get out of the way of this vehicle at the last second but exposing myself to a broadside hit by doing that, or turning my cycle and facing the car head-on in the impact, but putting the cycle between me and the car by doing it.”

He chose the head-on impact, and has a 3-percent loss of mobility in his left leg as a result of the impact. He also has a metal plate and six screws in his ankle from that encounter.

By contrast, though, a broadside hit could have been much more devastating.

“On average, distractions - cell