Drive Safely to Wayne State Campaign, Sept. 28-29

Approximately 1,000 traffic crash-related fatalities occurred annually on Michigan streets, roads and highways over the past five years. Nearly one-third were alcohol-related. Most unfortunate, however, is the fact that the victims of alcohol-involved crashes are frequently innocent citizens.

Detroit resident Cheryle Morgan-Houston knows this fact all too well. Her son was killed by a drunk driver while trying to assist an injured motorist near the intersection of Van Dyke and Davison.

Morgan-Houston will be the featured speaker for the opening ceremony of the sixth annual "Drive Safely to Wayne State" campaign Monday, Sept. 28, on the Wayne State University campus. Morgan-Houston will share her personal story, providing insight into how our poor decisions as drivers affect not only ourselves, but our friends and neighbors as well.

In addition to Morgan-Houston, traffic safety experts from across the state will provide their unique perspectives on emerging traffic safety issues. Speakers include Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, and top personnel from the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan State Police, the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning and the city of Detroit.

The Drive Safely to WSU campaign, conducted by the WSU Transportation Research Group (WSU-TRG), is recognized as a groundbreaking initiative aimed at educating citizens to become better, safer drivers.

"Last year, the total number of traffic fatalities in the state of Michigan was 980," said Professor Tapan Datta, director of the WSU-TRG. "We work with our partners and other stakeholders in designing selective enforcement and educational strategies and programs to heighten public awareness on how to be safer pedestrians and drivers."

The "Drive Safely to WSU" event will begin with the opening ceremony near the David Adamany Undergraduate Library at 1 p.m. Sept. 28. In addition, 10 tents will be set up on Gullen Mall through the end of the day Tuesday, Sept. 29. Each tent will focus on a particular traffic safety theme, including safety restraint use, pedestrian safety, and the consequences of drinking and driving. Interactive games and events will be showcased, such as child safety seat checks, demonstrations of the use of fatal vision goggles to simulate impaired driving, free samples of "mocktails" to promote alternatives to alcoholic beverages, and the display of several actual crash-involved vehicles. Daily prize drawings will be held for students, faculty, and staff and the event is open to the general public.

In addition to the Drive Safely to WSU campaign, the WSU-TRG is also involved in the development, implementation, and evaluation of various traffic safety programs on a local, state and national level. These programs cover a broad spectrum of areas including engineering, education and enforcement initiatives.

The first step to reduce Michigan traffic fatalities is demonstrating the importance of traffic safety to elementary school age children, Datta said. The WSU-TRG conducts several educational programs in Detroit Public Schools aimed at informing children of all ages about issues affecting pedestrian safety. "By integrating these types of programs with lifelong learning, opportunities exist to create a traffic safety culture where citizens are continually engaged in safe driving practices," Datta said.

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