Donald Driver, DOT prioritize safety on roads
By Kris Leonhardt/Shane Fitzsimmons
Press Times staff
GREEN BAY – To help urge Wisconsin residents to prioritize safety on the roads, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation proclaimed Oct. 25 as “Buckle Up, Phone Down Day.”
The day was highlighted during a news conference held at Green Bay East High School, where local leaders joined former Green Bay Packer and WisDOT spokesperson Donald Driver to raise awareness.
DOT officials say that last year “a quarter of those killed in crashes were not wearing a seat belt (168 of 595 fatalities). Distracted driving was involved in 9,677 crashes and 39 deaths.”
“It’s sometimes scary what you see out there,” said Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Tim Carnahan. “I know that many people — myself included — have stopped people that we thought were actually impaired or a drunk driver; turns out it has everything to do with being on that phone. And I’ve often asked people that I’ve stopped for inattentive driving and using the phone, ‘What was the message?’ and nothing is ever really important….
“I try to emphasize that (in) five seconds that 4- or 5,000-pound guided missile that you are piloting will go a tremendous distance and will do a lot of damage, not only to yourself but someone else.
“It’s difficult to do; I mean we are used to instant communication, whether it be text or emails….
“And realizing it’s okay to let those messages go unanswered on whatever trip you are taking, and do it in a safe manner. No one wants to get that knock on the door and someone has to tell them that their loved one isn’t coming back.”
Green Bay East High School student Keyana Perez said that as a new driver, she has already seen a lot of uncomfortable things happen on the road and that everyone needs to be conscientious each time they get into the car.
“As a new driver and as someone who has obviously been in a car many times; I’ve seen a lot of things happen. I’ve been at the scene of car accidents and it is scary seeing what can happen. I also have family members that have gotten in serious car accidents and unfortunately passed away,” Perez said.
“And it’s just something that you don’t want to see happen to you or your friends, and you don’t want to make anyone go through that. So, every single time you get in the car it is important to buckle up and phone down. Because you don’t want to be that person, you don’t want to be the next one who you have to have a school pep rally for, you know, or a school assembly. You don’t want your parents to get that knock at the door. It is important for everyone around you to do it as well and for you to make sure that you’re not putting someone else through that.”
That is something that also resonates with Driver.
“Sometimes, we leave our house saying, we’ll be right back; sometimes we don’t make it back home. And it’s because we did not follow the guidelines, we are supposed to follow. And so, if we can teach our young… as they to continue to drive and continue to get older, they’re going to realize that that’s the No. 1 safety is to put your seat belt on before you go,” Driver explained.
“But what you have to remember is that’s one of the biggest distractions is our cell phones and we have to put it down. We can wait 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes to get to our destination to know that we can pick that phone up and answer. So, it is dear to my heart.
“One of my good friends in Dallas, somebody ran the light — they were on their cell phone — hit the car, flipped the car three times. God had a purpose for her because he didn’t take her life. She had her seatbelt on, and she lived through it with no scars, no injuries.
“And that tells you, that you have to take the initiative. And so, it’s something that we are going to have to continue to push and fight for.”