Smart Driving campaign promotes safe, non-distracted driving

Photo by Zeinab Najm  Divine Child High School senior Anna Crandall warns her peers and other young drivers about the dangers of driving distracted ahead of summertime during a press conference May 9 at the Dearborn Police Department.

Photo by Zeinab Najm
Divine Child High School senior Anna Crandall warns her peers and other young drivers about the dangers of driving distracted ahead of summertime during a press conference May 9 at the Dearborn Police Department.

By ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The Police Department, Ford Motor Co., AAA and local high school students gathered to remind parents and drivers about their responsibilities while driving, especially during the summer.

The Smart Driving campaign kicked off on May 9 with a press conference in front of the Dearborn police station where distracted, drunken driving and speeding were the main focus as the weather warms up.

“Locally in Dearborn we had 3,625 traffic crashes which is up 223 from 2015,” Dearborn Police Cmdr. David Robinson said. “Rear-end crashes are the most common because drivers are usually distracted.”

He cited cellphone use behind the wheel as the biggest reason for the crashes and that the 15- to 19-year-old age group is responsible for distracted vehicle crashes.

“We need to educate teens on compliance,” he said. “Young people are the future, and teen leaders are working to spread the word.

Along with teens, parents who spend time with their young drivers in a vehicle help set the example on how to drive, Robinson said.

“Speeding, drinking and lack of safety belt use are three other common factors that lead to crashes with teen divers,” he said.

Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. emphasized that getting the message out to young drivers and their parents is essential for smart driving.

“Everyone thinks they can multitask, but it just takes that one moment to cause an accident or injurde someone,” he said. “Driving has always been dangerous but it is now more dangerous and that moment on your device is not worth it.”

Partnerships with the Police Department on the campaign include the Dearborn Public Schools, AAA of Michigan, Mother’s Against Drunk Driving and Ford Driving Skills to create a safer driving environment.

“Our project focuses on a combination of enforcement, education, teaching and legislation to make a difference in driving,” Ford Driving Skills for Life Global Manager Jim Graham said.

Dearborn Public Schools Supt. Glenn Maleyko said that the partnership with the Police Department and mayor is addressing an important cause.

“The mayor and police officers have increased their communication with our students and their parents to push non-distracted driving,” he said. “I remember working at Salina Intermediate in 2000 when a student was killed in a crash and it was one of the worst days for me as an educator.”

Students from Edsel Ford, Fordson and Divine Child high schools shared their work with the campaign.

“In a AAA poll, 94 percent of drivers acknowledge that other drivers are distracted by a cellphone and 35 percent admitted to texting and driving,” Edsel Ford senior Jacobb Diebolt said. “This needs to change and I believe teen-to-teen advice on driving can be the most powerful way.”

Divine Child senior Anna Crandall shared that she had a friend who lost a family member to distracted driving.

“Sharing personal stories about people we know who have been affected by distracted or drunken driving appeal to our emotions,” she said. “Those emotions can be used to have people think twice about driving distracted.”

Fordson seniors Ehab Hassen and Zahra Makki focused on drunken driving and the ways to avoid it by using resources.

“It’s simple to call someone for a ride, use public transportation or a service like Uber or Lyft,” Hassen said, “Don’t put yourself or the lives of others in danger by making an avoidable decision.”

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)