Contact: Jim Santilli, CEO, (248) 334-4971
TROY, Michigan, May 18, 2021 – The Transportation Improvement Association (TIA) and several law enforcement agencies are joining forces to remind Michigan motorists to avoid distractions while driving.
Law enforcement officers from the Michigan State Police, county sheriff’s offices, and local police departments will begin conducting Operation Ghost Rider on Wednesday. The goal is to reduce distracted driving deaths and injuries. This lifesaving initiative is being coordinated by TIA.
“Too many people have been killed and injured due to distracted driving,” said Jim Santilli, CEO of TIA. “As a team, we can end this dangerous and preventable behavior. All we need to do is avoid distractions, and keep our eyes on the road and hands on the wheel while driving.”
Operation Ghost Rider uses unmarked spotter vehicles, which contain a law enforcement passenger. When the spotters observe a distracted driver, they radio a fully marked law enforcement unit to initiate a traffic stop.
Participating agencies include the Auburn Hills Police Department, Chesterfield Township Police Department, Clinton Township Police Department, Macomb County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, Shelby Township Police Department, Sterling Heights Police Department, Taylor Police Department, and Utica Police Department.
“As a former fatal accident investigator, I have seen the terrible tragedy of distracted driving,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard. “It is high on our priority list to prevent this danger through a combination of education and enforcement.”
Operation Ghost Rider was revealed at a press conference in Macomb County in 2017. During a total of 18 hours of enforcement, law enforcement officers conducted more than 907 traffic stops resulting in 726 citations and 34 arrests.
Drivers who use a hand-held device are 4 times more likely to get into a crash serious enough to cause injury according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash.
“On average, a driver takes their eyes off the road for 4.6 of every 6 seconds every time they send or read a text message,” said Chief John Blair of the Taylor Police Department. “At 55 MPH, that is the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field while blindfolded.”
According to TIA, preliminary numbers for 2020 indicate 51 persons were killed and 5,559 were injured in 14,326 motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in the state of Michigan. During 2019, 70 persons were killed and 6,842 were injured in 18,096 crashes involving a distracted driver.
“Distracted driving is 100 percent preventable,” said F/Lt. Michael Shaw of the Michigan State Police. “While we always hope that education and personal accountability will stop distracted driving, we know that enforcement is also necessary to help save lives.”
During April, which is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, TIA, State Farm, the Michigan State Police, county and local law enforcement, and high school students joined forces to remind the public to avoid distractions while driving. Through a $20,000 grant provided by State Farm, TIA challenged Michigan high school students to design a distracted driving awareness billboard. The selection committee chose a design created by Leah Howell, an 11th grade student at the West Shore Educational School District Career and Technical Education Center. The design, which is titled “Choose LIVING, not LOOKING,” had nearly 7 million impressions throughout the state of Michigan.
“If you get in a vehicle, you should make driving your priority, not looking down at your phone,” said Howell. “The main reason I chose the saying ‘Choose LIVING, not LOOKING’ is because anyone who makes the choice to drive distracted has the potential of injuring themselves or others around them.”