By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — “It can wait.”
That was the message during the Arrive Alive town hall and campaign launch April 25 with the help of City Beautiful Commissioner Kimberly Ismail.
Dearborn Public Schools students, Mayor John O’Reilly Jr., Police Chief Ronald Haddad, Deputy Fire Chief Joey Thorington, DPS Executive Director of Student Achievement Youssef Mosallam, MDOT Traffic and Safety Engineer Emily Schneider and a crowd of others helped spread the safe driving message.
The group gathered outside Henry Ford Centennial Library, 16301 Michigan Ave., to share their thoughts and stories on distracted driving.
Dearborn High School junior Lisa Belle Salman stressed that it just takes a few seconds to end up at the hospital or dead if someone drives distracted.
“My dad used to text and drive,” she said. “He got rid of that habit when I said, ‘If you can text and drive so can I,’ because he didn’t want me to drive distracted.”
DHS junior Tania Hammoud echoed the same message and added that if you are in the car driving with someone on their cell phone it’s OK to take it away.
Schneider gave the crowd in audience preliminary statists about driving distracted in Michigan.
“The most powerful safety device in every vehicle is the driver,” she said. “The decisions you make have the single biggest impact on your safety behind the wheel.”
In 2017, Michigan State Police reported over 1,000 lives lost while traveling on Michigan roads and over 5,000 crashes involving a distracted driver using an electronic device.
Of those 5,000 crashes, over 2,000 took place in metropolitan Detroit and over 800 happened in Wayne County.
“The distracted driving crashes are hard to track because they are mostly self reported,” Schneider said. “There are so many more than the number that get reported.”
Haddad said that nothing hurts law enforcement more than when police get a call to go to a crash scene.
“The definition of an accident is, ‘an unintended event,’ so we know you didn’t mean to do it,” he said. “When human error is 90 percent of the causes that might end up harming you or someone else we can’t be indifferent toward it.”
He also listed applying makeup, fixing a hijab or hat, and eating food as other forms of distractions in addition to electronic devices.
Thorington shared his personal story of him texting behind the wheel with his son in the back seat about seven years ago. He said a car pulled out in front of him which caused him to slam on his breaks and was able to stop just short of hitting the vehicle.
“It was a life-changing event for me,” Thorington said. “It scared me what I could have done to that person in front me or my son in the back.”
Mosallam said seeing students driving erratically or driving irresponsibly upsets him the most.
“The longer you drive, the more comfortable you are going to get behind that wheel,” he said “As you get more comfortable behind that wheel you’re going to forget that you are driving a multi-ton vehicle, an object that could become a very dangerous object. You have to 100 percent attention on the road.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])