The Traffic Improvement Association of Michigan (TIA), Michigan State Police, and State Farm announced a statewide distracted driving education and enforcement initiative today. This campaign coincides with National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, which takes place in April.
“When operating a motor vehicle, we all have a personal responsibility to protect our life and the lives of the innocent people traveling around us,” said Jim Santilli, executive director of TIA. “One simple distraction, such as a short text message, can change many lives forever.”
Through funding provided by State Farm, TIA recently challenged Michigan high school students to design a distracted driving awareness billboard.
Nearly 90 innovative designs were judged by a selection committee consisting of: Santilli; David Arce, agent at State Farm; Kimberly Cardenas, student at Romeo High School; Kelly Carson, teacher at Romeo High School; Steve Guc, agent at State Farm; Saminia Hooks, student at Romeo High School; Nick Palaian, agent at State Farm; Chief Fred Posavetz of the Clinton Township Police Department; Sheriff Anthony Wickersham of the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office; and Captain Monica Yesh, district commander of the Michigan State Police.
The selection committee chose a design created by S. Jordan Belanger, a student at Howell High School. The design, which is titled “Don’t Juggle Your Attention,” was selected because it used creativity to emphasize the many types of distractions.
“Winning the 2016 Distracted Driving Billboard Challenge is a great honor for Jordan,” said Erin J. MacGregor, superintendent of Howell Public Schools. “I know that his attention-grabbing design will help raise awareness of distracted driving. I am thankful to the Traffic Improvement Association of Michigan and State Farm for providing this unique opportunity to our students.”
Belanger’s design will be seen throughout the state of Michigan during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. More than 16 million impressions will be made.
According to TIA, preliminary numbers for 2015 in Michigan indicate 26 people were killed and 3,427 were injured in 7,361 motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver or driver using a cell phone. Those numbers are up from 2014, in which 14 people were killed and 2,429 were injured in 5,427 motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver or driver using a cell phone.
“This is not just an insurance concern – we should all be concerned about the number of people driving while distracted,” said Palaian. “State Farm is strongly committed to doing everything we can to reduce distracted driving and the needless tragedies that result from it.”
In addition to distracted driving education, law enforcement agencies will be doing their part to ensure the safety of all motorists.
“Distracted driving is an epidemic in our country; drivers who engage in this dangerous activity put their lives and others at risk,” said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the Michigan State Police. “To limit distracted driving, you can expect to see troopers conducting traffic enforcement to help change dangerous driver behavior.”
John Cleveland, a Ferndale police officer who had his 3-year-old daughter killed by a drunk driver, reminds citizens that a distracted driver is comparable to a drunk driver.
“Distracted driving is a growing traffic safety concern for all motorists and has equally tragic outcomes as drugged or drunk driving,” Cleveland said.
Santilli, who also serves as the chairman of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Commissions’ Distracted Driving Action Team, said TIA will be sending a recommendation to the Michigan Legislature in hopes they will consider a hands-free law.
“A hands-free law would prohibit any physical manipulation of an electronic device while operating a motor vehicle and forbid a driver from using a hand-held phone,” he said. “The goal is for all drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, drivers who use a hand-held device are four times more likely to get into a crash serious enough to cause injury. Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash.