“Drive sober or get pulled over. Your decision can and will help save lives.”
Only one month into 2014, the DPS Office of Highway Safety has already recorded 49 vehicle crashes in the territory.
With Super Bowl Sunday only a few hours away, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), along with the National Football League (NFL) and Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management (TEAM) Coalition, have joined forces with local highway safety and law enforcement officials to spread the message about designating a sober driver on Super Bowl Sunday because - “Fans Don't Let Fans Drive Drunk.”
A total of 612 crashes involving 1,064 vehicles were recorded for calendar year 2013. And while Fred Scanlan, program coordinator for the Dept. of Public Safety’s Office of Highway Safety (OHS) is hopeful that the numbers will go down in 2014, based on the stats for January alone, the territory is on track to meet - or even beat - last year’s number.
The good news is, there is yet to be a fatality this year. Two deaths resulting from vehicle crashes were recorded in 2013.
“Our goal is to bring the numbers down, as far as decreasing the number of crashes and fatalities for 2014,” Scanlan told Samoa News in an initial interview.
Three 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. OHS is hopeful for a repeat of the same feat this year.
In 2012, there was only one car accident related fatality and one pedestrian fatality in the territory. Last year, 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. Not long afterwards, a young boy was hit by a vehicle as his parents watched in horror near the Laufou Shopping Center.
This year, Scanlan says his office plans to raise more awareness about highway safety by being more aggressive with outreach programs, traffic enforcement during the holiday season, and continuous public announcements through the media.
A talk show about the issue is tentatively set to begin airing this month on KVZK-TV.
“This is all part of our goal to reach the masses and get the word out about safety measures that need to be carried out when driving, or riding, any moving vehicle,” Scanlan said last month. “Also, we want to educate people on how to properly obey the signs posted on the road and how to understand the laws that are in place as far as safety on the road.”
He continued, “Super Bowl is a time of celebration for local fans and we caution everyone to designate a sober driver. Traffic cops will be on the lookout for drunk drivers so save yourself a free trip to the Territorial Correctional Facility.”
Locals are reminded that “There are better things to spend your money on than a ticket. Drive sober or get pulled over. Your decision can and will help save lives.”