The ninth annual “Drive Safely to Wayne State” campaign, which kicked off Sept. 19, focused on preventing distracted driving, particularly in and around campus.
Distracted driving, which is the main cause of car accidents and injuries, is anything that keeps a person’s attention off the road. This is hard to prevent when texting and social networking websites are a major component in everyday lives.
“There is no such thing as multitasking,” Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Mich., said during the opening ceremony at the Marvin I. Danto Engineering Development Center.
Clarke also said any secondary activity that takes the focus off the primary activity of driving creates a risk of fatality.
Bonnie Raffaele, who started the Kids Driving Responsibly challenge, stands for Kelsey Dawn Raffaele, her daughter who died in a fatal car accident due to distracted driving.
Raffaele presented driving statistics and pictures of her daughter’s car crash to warn the audience of such dangers. Raffaele travels to traffic safety events, high schools and colleges to discuss the dangers of distracted driving. Senate Bill 756, also known as Kelsey’s Law, prohibits any youth with a level one or level two driver’s license from using their cell phones while driving.
“You’re four times as likely to get into a car accident while using a cell phone,” Raffaele said.
The campaign also featured WSU’s “Arrive Alive Tour,” which included hands-on exhibits and provided plenty of literature for students to become more aware of the dangers of both distracted and drunk driving. A full simulator tested users’ skills as a drunk driver and distracted driver, with many people finding the task quite difficult.
“I tend not to text and drive,” College of Engineering student Miroslav Dimovski said.
Dimovski tested his skills as a drunk driver past the legal .08 alcohol limit. Audiences gathered around the simulator to witness the horrendous results.
Other hands-on demonstrations included riding a tricycle while wearing “drunk goggles” and steering through orange cones to test visibility. Students also answered a questionnaire to test their knowledge of driving safely in the hope of winning a Kindle Fire.
Safety around the WSU campus is a growing concern, and the Michigan State Police and Transportation Research Group are taking necessary efforts to increase safety.
“Many times we stop distracted drivers that we noticed might have run a stop sign or running a traffic light,” WSU Police Department Officer Mark Laquere said. “Also, accidents have … done a lot due to new crossing lights for pedestrians.”
Pedestrians find it convenient to disregard the crossing lights, which is a concern as well, but don’t expect tickets for jaywalking anytime soon.
“It’ll be difficult because many students disregard the crossing lights, and then you have to think about the cost of the ticket. Many students will find it hard to pay the cost,” WSUPD Captain Emery Burk said.
Many students find themselves racing against the time crossing lights allot, especially at the Warren and Cass avenues and the Warren Avenue and Anthony Wayne Drive intersections, which students will take the last second to beat the light for soon-to-be oncoming traffic.
“With timing, it goes both ways,” Burk said. “The city is concerned with vehicular traffic as well as pedestrian traffic. In some areas, the sequence and timing of lights has increased and so has the traffic. But the city is doing the best they can, but sometimes it doesn’t always work.”
Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle has helped implement many campaigns to help driver safety awareness, including “Don’t Text and Drive. It Can Wait,” “Click it or Ticket” and the new “Vision Zero” campaign, which originated in Sweden and aims to have zero car accident-related deaths.
Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent, Raffaele said. “So I tell you and beg you, please put the phones away,” Raffaele said. “I do it to save other people’s lives, not just the kids. Maybe today I’ll save one of your lives when you put the phone away.”