Highway Safety message reaches thousands
Over 6,000 people participated in, benefitted from, and learned lifelong lessons in safety during the outreach efforts of the DPS Office of Highway Safety during the summer months.
Outreach programs were conducted for different events including summer youth camps and sporting activities. The largest group that participated in a single event was during the Pago Pago Youth Rally which included participation from well over 1,500 parents, kids, and village people including religious and county leaders.
Another 620 locals took part in the Walk for the Humanities while 550 were reached during the Pago Samoa Stake Youth Conference.
The Office of Highway Safety is federally funded and includes different programs including occupant safety, pedestrian safety, and driving while intoxicated. The office, headed by program coordinator Fred Scanlan, conducts outreach program that include presentations and sessions that discuss the importance of being safe on the road, whether it be crossing the street, riding the school bus, buckling up, or choosing the right car seat for the little ones.
In an interview with the Samoa News last week, Scanlan said their target ages are 16-20 for the underage drinking program; 16-24 for safe driving, and 21-36 for driving under the influence.
Two years ago, American Samoa made national headlines when it became the only place in the US and its territories to close off 2011 without a single car accident related or pedestrian fatality.
Last year wasn’t too bad either. In 2012, there was only one car accident related fatality and one pedestrian fatality in the territory. Just last week, the first fatality for 2013 occurred when a young man who was riding in the back seat of a SUV died in Pava'ia'i after the back of the vehicle hit a utility pole.
The driver was intoxicated and the victim, according to sources, wasn't wearing a seatbelt.
OHS improved on its spending from 23% in 2006 to 61.80% in 2012 and one of the key reasons for this is the hiring of Office of Highway Safety (OHS) staff to implement and create new avenues of approach in tackling problem areas, according to Scanlan. The mission of the American Samoa OHS is to reduce the number of traffic crashes, fatalities, injuries, and property damage on the territory’s roadways, as well as create a safer environment for motorists, passengers, and pedestrians. The program is administered by the Department of Public Safety.
He noted, the highlight of 2012 was the Purchase Alcohol Enforcement Program, which worked as a strategy to reduce DUI arrests and increased the number of stores that had their licenses suspended. As a result, there was a decrease in the number of underage drinkers. The success of this program was thanks in part to OHS’s continuing efforts to accomplish their set goals by increasing and maintaining the number of outreach programs by 10%, and collaborating with village police and religious organizations to promote the prevention of underage drinking, driving under the influence, speeding, and promoting the use of seat belts.
Preliminary highway safety data, compiled by OHS, shows that in American Samoa, DUI arrests dropped by a whopping 53% from 316 in 2006 to 146 in 2012. In addition, the number of total alcohol related crashes decreased by 72% from 48 in 2006 to 13 in 2012. (An obvious proof of enforcement impact).
OHS also funds the enforcement of the "Click it or Ticket" program and other programs that promote safety on the territory's highway system.
According to Scanlan, to help increase the use of seat belts and child restraints, OHS’s Occupant Safety Program has several planned activities, which include continued enforcement of safety belt use to achieve the goal of 80% usage rate. OHS also plans to provide child safety seats at check point and fitting stations, to install or replace unsafe seats, provide child passenger safety training for technicians and parents, and increase the use of child restraints through paid media campaigns demonstrating appropriate installation and use of car seats.
The program also plans to provide educational and promotional materials to support training and enforcement, as well as to procure car seats and provide training for their proper use.
OHS continues to remind everyone to buckle up and make sure our children are placed in proper restraints every time they are in a moving vehicle, for their own safety and protection.
The Office of Highway Safety is located on the second floor of the Lumana’i Building in Fagatogo and they can be reached at 633-1780.
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