Shaq Helps Honor Highway Safety Leaders at National Awards Luncheon

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 28, 2018

CONTACT: Madison Forker, 650-218-2065

Association recognizes leaders in research, advocacy, and program development

ATLANTA, Ga. – Today, NBA Hall of Fame legend Shaquille O’Neal helped the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) honor individuals and programs making a tremendous impact on improving highway safety during its 2018 Highway Safety Awards Luncheon. The luncheon was part of GHSA’s 2018 Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) and The National Road Safety Foundation sponsored the luncheon.

O’Neal’s participation in the luncheon was related to his ongoing involvement in traffic safety campaigns through Responsibility.org. A sworn reserve law enforcement officer with the Los Angeles Port Police and Miami Beach, O’Neal is committed to spreading the word about the dangers of impaired and distracted driving and announced Responsibility.org’s pledge to fund a 4th year of work to train law enforcement officers and prevent impaired driving.

At the luncheon, GHSA presented its most prestigious honor, the James J. Howard Highway Safety Trailblazer Award, to retired Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel, a passionate national advocate for traffic safety. During the course of his 50-year career in law enforcement, Sheriff Whetsel implemented programs to change the way police officers conducted pursuits, reduce risky driving behaviors, and make enforcement of traffic safety laws a priority. His programs helped contribute to a 90 percent reduction in traffic crashes in the rural areas of Oklahoma County during his tenure. Since his retirement, he has continued to travel around the country advocating for traffic safety and officer safety.

Former Missouri highway safety director Leanna Depue, received the Kathryn J.R. Swanson Public Service Award. A previous GHSA Executive Board member, Depue has been an active member of highway safety groups and committees at the national, state, and local levels and the driving force behind numerous behavioral safety research projects. During her tenure at the State Highway Safety Office, she oversaw highway safety plans that helped reduce the number of fatalities in the state by 40 percent and the number of serious injury crashes by 36 percent. Most recently, she was instrumental in working with NHTSA and the Transportation Research Board to launch the Behavioral Traffic Safety Cooperative Research Program.

GHSA also presented three Peter K. O’Rourke Special Achievement Awards for outstanding highway safety accomplishments during the prior year: 

  • The City of Atlanta was recognized for its innovative North Avenue Smart Corridor pilot project. In this pilot, the City installed more than 100 data-collecting sensors along the 2.3-mile corridor, implemented a new adaptive traffic signal system that responds to current road conditions, developed a connected infrastructure that connects all mobility users, and piloted an autonomous bus network that connected to the sensor system. Combining private and public data, the City created an interactive dashboard that analyzes key risk factors and help predict crashes before they happen. Since the launch of the project, the City has seen a 25 percent reduction in the crash rate along the corridor.
  • Tom and Arlene Deutscher and Donna and Lynn Mickelson are parents who turned their grief over losing their children and grandchild to a drunk driver into action, fighting impaired driving in North Dakota. They partnered with the North Dakota Department of Transportation to help produce a media campaign, created an annual fundraising event, delivered presentations at schools across the state, and partnered with legislators, state government officials, and advocacy groups to secure the passage of “Brielle’s Law.” Signed into law in 2013, the legislation increased penalties for all DUI offenders, criminalized testing refusal, and assured mandatory participation in the 24/7 Sobriety Program for all repeat offenders. Since 2013, the percentage of alcohol-related fatalities in the state has dropped from 50.7 percent to 44.2 percent.
  • The New York State Pedestrian Safety Action Plan is an ambitious partnership of the New York State departments of health and transportation and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to protect the state’s most vulnerable road users. Pedestrians comprise more than 25 percent of fatalities due to motor vehicle crashes in the state. The plan identifies 20 focus communities in upstate New York and on Long Island, and it provides for engineering improvements, enforcement strategies, and educational initiatives. Among the countermeasures implemented are crosswalk improvements, law enforcement training, pedestrian and bicycle safety training, a statewide “See! Be Seen!” campaign available in 12 languages, and a pedestrian safety toolkit to help communities implement educational strategies. Preliminary data show a 22 percent drop in pedestrian fatalities the first year of the plan.

More information on the awards can be found at ghsa.org/about/safety-awards. To request a photo from the awards presentation, contact Madison Forker atmforker@ghsa.org, or call 650-218-2065. The full GHSA Annual Meeting schedule is available online.

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About GHSA

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit www.ghsa.org. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GHSAhq or follow us on Twitter @GHSAHQ.

About the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) is a leader in the fight to eliminate drunk driving and underage drinking and is funded by distillers to promote responsible decision-making regarding beverage alcohol. For more information, go to responsiblity.org.

About The National Road Safety Foundation

The National Road Safety Foundation, Inc. (NRSF) is a non-profit organization that for more than 55 years has been dedicated to reducing deaths and injuries on our nation's roads by promoting safe driving awareness and lifelong education. NRSF produces free traffic safety programs on distracted driving, drowsy driving, speed, impairment and a host of other safe driving issues. NRSF also sponsors contests to engage teens while promoting safe driving to their peers and their communities. For more information or to download free programs, visit www.nrsf.org.