Contact: Lateshia Dowell, Communications Manager, (248) 334-4971
STERLING HEIGHTS, Michigan, June 14, 2017 – As the first day of summer approaches, Michigan motorists are being reminded to avoid distractions while driving by keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
Law enforcement officers from police departments, sheriff’s offices, and the Michigan State Police will begin conducting Operation Ghost Rider in Macomb and Oakland counties on Thursday. The goal is to reduce distracted driving deaths and injuries. This lifesaving initiative is being coordinated by the Transportation Improvement Association (TIA) and funded by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.
“The goal of Operation Ghost Rider is to change driver behavior so people can return home to their loved ones each day,” said Jim Santilli, chief executive officer of TIA. “As drivers, we need to recognize that a distracted driver has the same blatant disregard for human life as a drunk driver. Please avoid distractions and remember that we all have a responsibility to protect the lives of the innocent people traveling around us.”
Operation Ghost Rider uses an unmarked spotter vehicle, which contains a law enforcement passenger. When the spotter observes a distracted driver, they radio a fully marked law enforcement unit to initiate a traffic stop.
Participating agencies include the Auburn Hills Police Department, Clinton Township Police Department, Macomb County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, Shelby Township Police Department, and Sterling Heights Police Department.
“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 law enforcement officers conducting traffic enforcement to help change dangerous driver behavior.”
Operation Ghost Rider was revealed at a press conference in Macomb County on April 25. During a 10-hour period, 14 law enforcement officers conducted more than 158 traffic stops resulting in 133 citations, 48 warnings, and 3 arrests.
According to TIA, records indicate 43 people were killed and 5,118 were injured in 12,819 crashes involving a distracted driver during 2016.
“Fatalities are not merely numbers,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard. “They are real people who were taken away from their loved ones by a completely preventable traffic crash. The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office remains committed to ensuring everyone has a safe travel experience on our roadways.”
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 distracted driver is taking their eyes off the road for 4.6 of every 6 seconds,” said Interim Chief Dale Dwojakowski of the Sterling Heights Police Department. “To put that into perspective, that is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field while blindfolded.”
TIA is currently developing an Operation Ghost Rider report and plans to promote the program for use by other law enforcement agencies. The report will include details from the April and June enforcement initiatives.