A personal recap of the empty shoes events from Mary Hunter
The Empty Shoes events were held statewide the week of Jan. 22, in an effort to bring visibility to the need to get all Idahoans to buckle up. Many of the speakers made it evident that Idaho deserves an effective seat belt law, and that we can’t sustain our current 80 percent seat belt use rate because of Idaho’s inability to qualify for funding to sustain our seat belt education and enforcement programs.
Boise-based ES Drake assisted in the coordination by promoting the events to the media, preparing press packets, pre-event press releases, contact sheets, and post-event press releases, developing the color 40-inch by 60-inch poster identifying the number of unbelted fatalities by district and the associated economic costs, and assisted the local coordinators in addressing the event details.
Posters were left in each district for their local use.
Meanwhile, I was selecting the event coordinators, and gathering and organizing the shoes.
The 126 pairs of shoes included 87 pairs representing the 87 unbelted males killed in 2005. The remaining 39 pairs of shoes represented females, with the youngest unbelted child being 9 years of age. The shoes were donated from friends, ITD District 3, co-workers, ES Drake and others.
We ended up with an additional 77 pairs of shoes, and even more scattered throughout the districts. The state of Nevada heard about what we were doing so they jumped on board and will be conducting similar events in their efforts to get a primary seat belt law for Nevada.
The Idaho Empty Shoes events started in Coeur d’Alene on Monday and finished up in Pocatello on Friday. Please see the buckleupidaho.org Web site and check the gallery for the Empty Shoes Events pictures.
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Driving the empty shoes to the many events statewide was an honor for me. Thanks to Chief Leslie Hendricks, Nez Perce Tribal Police, for suggesting that these events be conducted throughout the state, thus giving me the opportunity that I had. I can’t tell you how meaningful it was to hear a story from a family member every day of one week on how seat belts, or lack of seat belt use, had such an important impact on their family. Sally Mitchell, Captain Roger Lanier, Craig Lough, Lisa Knowlton, Gary and Joann Rose, and Lt. Terry Felsman renewed my conviction to reduce these needless tragedies suffered by Idaho families. Sure, seat belts can’t save everyone, but they can save at least half, if they are used.
After the events, it was sad to drop off the 126 pairs of shoes at the Idaho Youth Ranch. I carried them around in my vehicle for two days because I couldn’t quite part with them, and what they represented to me. There were the red alligator pumps that were a hit everywhere. And the girl’s red cowboy boots that kept tipping over.
There was the almost new Danners that surely cost $250. And then there was my neighbor’s cowboy boots. And there were lots of men’s sneakers. There were 87 pairs of men’s shoes representing the unbelted males killed in 2005. 70 percent of the shoes were men’s shoes, and 61 percent were for men ages 20 and older. They surely represented a lot of fathers, fathers that left children behind to grow up without a dad. I wonder if these kids will grow up in poor families due to the lost income from the dads.
I ended my trip feeling more convinced than ever that Idaho families deserve more. Idaho’s fatality rate is 25 percent higher than the national average. We have a first-rate state and we should not settle for using the fact that Idaho has a lot of rural roads to justify our fatality rate, explaining that this is just the way it is in Idaho. Let’s not settle for 126 unbelted traffic deaths in 2007.