The 2008 Drive Safely to Wayne State campaign to be held Sept. 22-23 on Gullen Mall

DETROIT - At any given time during daylight hours, more than 974,000 people are talking on a cell phone while driving. More than 32,000 drivers are dialing a cell phone, sending a text message, or manipulating another handheld device. This driver distraction problem isn’t just limited to drivers - pedestrians are also often involved in such undesirable behavior while crossing the street.

The Wayne State University Transportation Research Group (TRG) and the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (MOHSP) hope you ponder this and other road safety questions, and act responsibly.

“We’re always thinking and working to improve traffic safety, the goal of all of our educational and research programs are aimed at preventing traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities,” says Tapan Datta, professor, civil and environmental engineering, and chair of the “Drive Safely to Wayne State University” campaign, taking place on the WSU campus, Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 22 and 23.

Among many research programs, the TRG is responsible for tracking seat belt use for the state of Michigan. Latest figures show the Michigan is at an all-time high of 96.2 percent seat belt use.

The fifth annual Drive Safely Campaign to WSU is designed to promote road safety and driving practices among students, faculty, and staff, as well as other commuters on issues such as distracted driving, driving under the influence, driver education, aggressive driving, and pedestrian safety.

The two-day program on Wayne State’s Gullen Mall kicks off at 1 p.m. Monday, Sept. 22 with presentations by leading local and state officials who care deeply about road safety. Dignitaries include Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, Congressman John Conyers, Jr., MDOT Director Kirk Steudle, Detroit Councilperson Alberta Tinsley-Talabi, and others who will participate in the opening ceremony. Fox 2 TV Traffic Reporter Jackie Paige will return again this year to emcee the event.

Hands-on activities and demonstrations will continue on the mall Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning and afternoon, including child safety seat demonstrations and checks, information and videos on poor driving behavior, consequences of failure to use seat belts, crash statistics, information and samples of “mocktails” to promote alternatives to alcoholic beverages, educational outreach activities, daily drawings for prizes, and more.

So, here’s a tip for the next time you slide behind the wheel. If you have passengers, make them feel useful by putting them in charge of cell phones, radio controls, and navigation devices.