Contact: Lateshia Dowell, Communications Manager, (248) 334-4971
STERLING HEIGHTS, Michigan, April 25, 2017 – The Transportation Improvement Association (TIA), Michigan State Police, State Farm, and numerous other law enforcement agencies announced a new statewide distracted driving education and enforcement initiative today.
“When operating a motor vehicle, we all have a personal responsibility to ensure the safety of the innocent people traveling around us by keeping our eyes on the road and hands on the wheel,” said Jim Santilli, chief executive officer of TIA. “One simple distraction, such as a short text message or social media update, can change many lives forever.”
Through a $30,500 grant provided by State Farm, TIA recently challenged Michigan high school students to design a distracted driving awareness billboard.
The designs were judged by a selection committee consisting of: Santilli; David Arce, agent at State Farm; Captain Aaron Burgess of the Sterling Heights Police Department; Kelly Carson, teacher at Romeo High School; Sgt. Jennifer Miles of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office; Nick Palaian, agent at State Farm; Chief Fred Posavetz of the Clinton Township Police Department; Chief Robert Shelide of the Shelby Township Police Department; Major Robert Smith of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office; Sheriff Anthony Wickersham of the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office; and Captain Monica Yesh of the Michigan State Police.
The selection committee chose a design, which is titled “Do the Math. Don’t Drive Distracted.” Created by James Hegarty, a student at Grand Blanc High School, the design features a phone in a hand, a plus symbol, vehicle, equal sign, and a crashed vehicle.
Hegarty’s design can currently be seen throughout the state of Michigan. More than 16 million impressions will be made.
“TIA, the Michigan State Police, Michigan Sheriff’s Association, and Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police commend James Hegarty and State Farm for helping us to save lives and prevent injuries,” said Santilli. “Our goal is to eventually achieve zero deaths, injuries, and crashes.”
According to Palian, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 80% of all collisions are due to driver inattentiveness.
“This is not just an insurance concern; we should all be concerned about the number of people driving while distracted,” he said. “State Farm has a long history of commitment to auto and highway safety dating back to the 1920’s. Over the decades, we’ve tackled important safety issues like seat belts, child passenger restraints, and now distracted driving.”
In addition to distracted driving education, officials unveiled a new enforcement program called “Operation Ghost Rider.” Operation Ghost Rider uses an unmarked vehicle and contains a law enforcement passenger. When the “ghost” officer observes dangerous behavior, such as distracted driving or red-light running, they radio a fully marked law enforcement unit to initiate a traffic stop. The goal is to reduce crashes.
“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.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, drivers who use a hand-held device are 4 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.