OHS annual report highlights successful enforcement programs and more efficient use of funds
American Samoa made national headlines two years ago 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.
This past year wasn’t too bad either. In 2012, there was only one car accident related fatality and one pedestrian fatality in the territory. This is according to the American Samoa Highway Safety Annual Report for Federal Fiscal Year 2012 submitted to the US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
According to the report, OHS improved on its spending from 23% in 2006 to 61.80% in 2012. 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.
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 and is coordinated by Fred Scanlan.
For FFY2012, OHS enforcement programs were successful, as seen in the reduction of the total number of car crashes and persons injured, and decrease in impaired driving arrests.
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 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).
The report highlights the fact that there were no speed related fatalities last year, while citations for speeding violations increased by 69% during regular duty hours, from 765 in 2010, to 1300 in 2012.
Last year, the total number of car crashes decreased by 36% from 686 in 2006 to 437 in 2012, while the number of serious injuries decreased by 95% from 83 in 2006 to only 4 in 2012. Other notable statistics include the number of persons injured during car crashes which dropped from 159 in 2006 to 45 in 2012. Three people died in car crashes in 2006 and only one person died last year. One pedestrian was killed in 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2012, while there were no recorded pedestrian deaths in 2008, 2009, and 2011.
Speed related crashes (by community/municipality) decreased to 2 last year, compared to 15 in 2006. There were 58 alcohol related injuries recorded in2012, and 75% of people were known to observe the use of safety belts.
According to the report, a total of 1,185 citations were issued for seatbelt violations last year and of that number, 614 of them were issued during grant-funded enforcement activities.
The OHS annual report provides an overview of the territory’s use of the NHTSA FFY2012 funds and the approved funds to be carried forward from previous years. The program achieved and made significant progress in spending their allocated funds last year and they continue to strive for improvements in areas that include the Alcohol Purchase Enforcement Program which has, without a doubt, significantly increased the level of awareness throughout the territory.
In addition to keeping the territory’s roadways safe, OHS also has programs that have provided great paying jobs for 24 local people who work as safety patrol officers. (See separate story)
The Office of Highway Safety is located on the second floor of the Lumana’i Building in Fagatogo.