BEATRICE – Over the last 18 months, about a dozen vehicles accidents, including some fatalities….have occurred on U.S. Highway 77 from south of Beatrice to the Nebraska-Kansas line. What’s factoring into those accidents?


A southeast Nebraska Sheriff says part of the problem could stem from having two-lanes, instead of four…..on a highway with a 65-mile-per-hour speed limit. But Gage County Sheriff Millard Gustafson says it goes beyond that….and there are many reasons bad accidents happen.


"One, we had some young ladies from Creighton killed. They tried to swerve away from a deer that had come out of the ditch on their side, and they went head-on into an oncoming car. We've had two other fatalities. In one accident, probably cell phone distraction. And then the one that we had yesterday....one of those two...looks like cell phone distraction, as well. Luckily, neither one of those were killed, but they were still serious accidents."


Some states have primary offense laws mandating seatbelt use and banning cell phone use while driving. But in both cases, Nebraska has secondary offense laws.  "I'm sure that's a political game for the legislature to get that through, but it would help if we had that first offense. I have people pass me in the patrol car all the time, speeding...and that's on north...a four-lane. They're fixing their hair, looking at the phone. Everybody is in a hurry to go someplace. They just need to be patient and slow down. You just have to learn to do that...because life's too short to end it, like that."


Gustafson says at some point, the state will have to take serious look at primary offense seat belt and texting laws.  "The cell phone usage and the seatbelt...it's really no different than speeding. They're all traffic laws, so why not make it equal....and do it right?"


Many newer vehicles today have hands-free technology for cell phones, which can help improve driver safety.  As for the 65-speed limit south of Beatrice, Gustafson says he feels less comfortable with that on a two-lane highway…..than a 70-mile-per-hour limit on four-lanes. He’s ’s not sure lowering the limit to 60 would be beneficial, because people tend to drive a few miles over the limit, regardless.


Gustafson says he’s seen accidents on flat, straight-away sections of highway, where there are no hills or obstructions. "Wide open.....wide open intersections...wide open flat ground...I don't know if their mind is just elsewhere...you don't see it, you never know. It is frustrating."


The way to avoid being in a bad accident, is to consider three things...Gustafson says..."Buckle up......speed....pay attention to your driving, not your cell phone......simple as that."