Through a grant from Ford Driving Skills for Life (Ford DSFL) and GHSA, the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), in conjunction with the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police and the New York State Department of Transportation, held a speed-focused traffic safety fair to show high school students – many of whom are driving or will soon be – how speeding can put themselves, their passengers and everyone on the road in danger.
The fair was held on two different days, with identical events held on May 3 and 4 at the Kenan Center in Lockport, NY. Students from high schools across Niagara County attended the events and took part in the following demonstrations:
- Stopping Distances – Students experienced a “skid test” demonstration on both wet and dry pavement to visualize how surface conditions and speed play a role in vehicle control.
- Work Zone Safety and Speed – Students watched a vehicle proceed through a simulated active work zone complete with construction trucks, cones, jersey barriers and highway workers. GTSC Survivor Advocate Karen Torres, whose father was struck and killed by a distracted driver while working as a highway maintenance worker, spoke with students before and after the station.
- Pedestrian Safety and Speed – A mock pedestrian (dummy) was set up in the roadway and struck by a vehicle at 10 mph and 30 mph. Students observed the force on the human body and learned about crash survivability at different speeds from a member of the New York State Police.
- Survivor Advocate Presentation – Marianne Angelillo’s 17-year-old son was killed as a passenger involved in a high-speed crash in 2004. Now a GTSC Survivor Advocate, Angelillo shared her story with students, emphasizing how the decision to speed and drive recklessly can have a lasting impact and imploring students to always think of the ramifications of their driving decisions.
- Vehicle Safety Features – This demonstration, presented by Ford DSFL’s Mike Speck, exposed students to various vehicle safety features that are present in today’s automobiles, including lane departure technology, anti-lock brakes, automated emergency braking, anti-speed functions, crumple zones and other driver assistance technologies. In line with the Safe System approach, students learned how these technologies can help prevent crashes and save lives.
As part of this program, GTSC created an array of materials carrying New York’s new statewide speed-awareness brand, “SLOWDOWNNY! Drive Safe, Not Fast.” Materials produced included event t-shirts, banners, magnets and curated social media postings. A news release was produced and disseminated to local media which lead to a media day featuring all three major Buffalo television stations.
GTSC’s biggest success with this program was pulling off two large-scale events attended by a total of 565 students, with most being high school seniors just beginning to drive. The faces of the students told the story – they were impacted by what they saw and heard. GTSC hopes their biggest take-away was that speeding is not a frivolous traffic infraction, but a serious one that could cost someone their life. GTSC believes that message was delivered loud and clear.