Police, local organizations urge safe driving by teens

DEARBORN — Acting on requests by parents and community leaders, Police Chief Ronald Haddad recently announced a local public information campaign titled SMART, which stands for “Safe, Mature And Responsible Teens.”

At a June 17 press conference, local law enforcement agencies, AAA Michigan, Ford Motor Co., Dearborn Public Schools and Henry Ford Village, urged teenage drivers and their parents to practice and encourage safe and responsible driving.

Haddad said motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among American teenagers, killing between 5,000 and 6,000 each year. Although young drivers account for only 6.4 percent of the population, they account for 14 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes, he said.

The deadliest months of the year for teenage motor vehicle fatalities are the spring and summer months of May, June, July and August with 54 percent of teenage motor vehicle crash deaths occurring on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, according to traffic statistics.

Haddad also highlighted the danger that distracted driving poses, saying that at any given time, 800,000 drivers across the country are being distracted by a handheld cell phone. Edsel Ford High School Principal Hassane Jaafar offered this reminder for teens: “It is your obligation to observe proper guidelines, the speed limit and don’t talk on cell phones or text. We value you and we want you to be safe.”

Jack Peet, AAA Michigan traffic safety manager, reiterated the importance of distraction-free driving.

“About 80 percent of all traffic crashes are caused by driver distraction,” he said. “People talking on cell phones while driving are 23 percent more likely to be involved in a fatal crash. If someone told you that walking on one side of the street was 23 percent more likely to result in a fatality, wouldn’t you walk on the safe side of the street?”

Representing the Ford Motor Co. Driving Skills For Life program, spokeswoman Rebecca Bunting-Kuchar said young drivers could find more helpful information on the program’s Website at www.drivingskillsforlife.com.

“There are four areas teen drivers have to be aware of, and they are vehicle handling, speed, space management and hazard recognition,” Bunting-Kuchar said. The program also includes online activities that allow teen drivers to test their skill.

Haddad concluded the event by recognizing Marilyn Turner, Darlene Ramus and Phyllis Preston of the Henry Ford Village Protestant Women’s Guild. The group donated a large number of teddy bears to the Police Department for officers to hand out to young children involved in critical incidents such as vehicle crashes.