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Office of Highway Safety reports successes, challenges faced in FY2013

blue@samoanews.com

The DPS Office of Highway Safety has submitted its annual report for federal fiscal year 2013 to the US Department of Transportation (USDOT), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
 
The report, according to DPS Commissioner William Haleck, provides an overview of American Samoa’s use of the NHTSA FY 2013 funds and the approved carry-forward funds from previous years.
 
It also includes program goals and accomplishments as defined in the FY 2013 Highway Safety Plan.
 
“We achieved and made significant progress in reaching out to the community this year,” Haleck wrote. “In addition, we continue to strive for improvements in our Child Passenger Safety Program and continue enforcement on DUI and Alcohol Purchase and selling to minors, which has significantly increased the level of awareness throughout the territory.”
 
According to the report, during FY 2013, the Office of Highway Safety improved on its outreach program from 800 to 6,000+, an increase of 750%. (The OHS conducts free ‘by request’ presentations and educational sessions for youth groups, church organizations, and schools regarding road safety issues such as child/occupant safety, pedestrian safety and alcohol enforcement.
 
The OHS continues to improve on its effective approach with messages to the public by providing Public Service Announcements through the media.
 
In addition to its outreach programs, OHS also funded a number of DPS enforcement activities by month as follows:
 
Alcohol enforcement (January)
 
Speed/Alcohol enforcement (February and April)
 
CIOT - Seatbelt enforcement (May)
 
Speed/Alcohol enforcement (June and July)
 
Speed/Alcohol enforcement (August and September)
 
Occupant Protection (November)
 
Alcohol enforcement (December)
 
According to the report, in American Samoa, the total number of crashes decreased by 199 between 2005 and 2013. In 2010, a total of six fatalities were recorded. But that number decreased last year to two. The number of injured persons dropped from 70 in 2012 to 68 last year and the total number of DUI arrests dropped from 146 in 2012 to 106 in 2013.
 
However, the number of alcohol related crashes ballooned from 13 in 2012 to 66 last year while the number of serious traffic injuries nearly quadrupled from 4 in 2012 to 15 in 2013.
 
Speeding citations also increased as more sections of the highway were resurfaced.
 
While many goals were reached, like decreasing the number of impaired driving arrests and increasing the percentage (2%) of people observing the use of safety belts, there were also challenges faced by the OHS and DPS as a whole during FY2013.
 
For example, the compliance rate for seat belt usage and child passenger safety restraints in American Samoa is well below the national average. “We will continue with enforcement and education with the hope to achieve an 81% usage rate by 2014 with the new survey design,” the report notes.
 
As for the sale of alcohol, businesses selling alcohol to minors and after curfew hours continues to be a “problem” and “a high number” of underage people (17 total) and even adults were arrested, and stores (a total of 23) cited for violations involving the sale of alcohol.
 
“This has forced store owners and cashiers to attend more training in checking of IDs and understanding the local statute,” says the report, which notes that the Purchase Alcohol Enforcement Program “made a difference” last year “as a strategy that reduced DUI arrests and increased not only the number of stores with revoked licenses but also the number of identified underage drinkers.
 
For this new year, the OHS aims to implement program performance measures to include:
 
•               Increase in seatbelt use among all vehicle occupants as measured by observations;
•                
•               Increase awareness of the “Click it or Ticket” (E Fusi pe Tusi) slogan; and
•                
•               Increase community awareness
•                
                       OHS’s mission is “to reduce traffic crashes, traffic fatalities, injuries and property damage on the American Samoa roadways, and to create a safer environment for motorists, passengers, and pedestrians.”
 
                       More information on DPS Office of Highway Safety programs can be obtained by calling 633-7634 or visiting their office on the second floor of the Lumana’i Building in Fagatogo during regular business hours.



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