Spotlighting successful strategies for reducing motor vehicle fatalities, ITD’s 2006 Highway Safety Summit featured an array of speakers from highway safety professionals to Washington state’s own "Judge Judy."
About 140 professionals from law enforcement, emergency medical services and ITD attended the event held Sept. 12 in Boise.
John Moffat, regional administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, called on summit participants to lead the effort to stop impaired drivers and improve safety belt usage in the state.
“Most people get into fatal wrecks because of alcohol or other bad driving,” Moffat said. “They die because they are not wearing safety belts.”
He added that Idaho could move closer to a goal of zero deaths on state highways by supporting “frontline” law enforcement efforts to stop impaired drivers and by passing a primary safety belt law.
Idaho’s secondary safety belt law was passed in 1986; but according to Moffat secondary safety belt laws don’t work well because they are hard to enforce and too many people don’t take laws seriously.
Drive Program founder Mark Horowitz told the audience, “Attitude drives behavior and behavior affects driving.” Horowitz’s Moorshire Group produces driver-training materials for teenagers and their parents. “The number one greatest fear for parents is that their kid will get in an accident,” he said.
“Parents experience a disconnect from the reality of their teens,” he said, adding that most parents don’t know that 80 percent of teenagers are regularly sleep deprived.
Horowitz called the problems associated with young drivers, ages 16 to 24, a teen health crisis. “Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of deaths among teens,” he said.
Involving parents more with their teenage drivers is the goal of Horowitz’s current “Drive for Parents” program. He said the program has three basic goals:
Capt. Steve Burns from Washington State Patrol talked about his district’s success at reducing highway deaths to zero in East Snohomish County in 2004, an area Reader’s Digest called one of America’s most dangerous highways in 2000. Motor vehicle fatalities in that area averaged one per month that year.
Burns attributed WSP’s success to “working with our partners” and taking a more aggressive approach to catching impaired drivers before they reach Washington state highways.
District Judge Judith “Judy” Eiler shared her King County courtroom experiences with meting out justice to “really bad drivers,” including one that had accumulated more than 100 citations.
A prosecutor training effort to secure more DWI convictions, law enforcement “spotter” programs targeting aggressive drivers, a Junior Seat Belt Officer program and Idaho Seat Belt Coalition efforts also werediscussed.
Photos: John Moffat, regional administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration addressed the safety summit crowd (top); Lewiston police officer Ted Piche checked out the latest in laser/radar technology at a vendor's booth (bottom).