STERLING HEIGHTS, Michigan - As National Distracted Driving Awareness Month comes to an end, Michigan motorists are being reminded to avoid distractions while driving by keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
More than fifty law enforcement officers from police departments, sheriff's offices, and the Michigan State Police will begin conducting Operation Ghost Rider on Monday. The goal is to reduce distracted driving deaths and injuries. This lifesaving initiative is being coordinated by the Transportation Improvement Association (TIA) and funded by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.
"Distracted driving is completely preventable, but it continues to be a serious problem among drivers," said Jim Santilli, CEO of TIA. "Every time a driver operates a vehicle while distracted, they are endangering everyone on or near the roadway. The goal of Operation Ghost Rider is to save lives and prevent injuries by changing driver behavior."
Operation Ghost Rider uses unmarked spotter vehicles, which contain a law enforcement passenger. When the spotters observe a distracted driver, they radio a fully marked law enforcement unit to initiate a traffic stop.
Participating agencies include the Auburn Hills Police Department, Clinton Township Police Department, Macomb County Sheriff's Office, Michigan State Police, Oakland County Sheriff's Office, Shelby Township Police Department, Sterling Heights Police Department, and Utica Police Department.
(It's unclear which southern Michigan departments will be directly involved in Operation Ghost Rider.)
"Distracted drivers put themselves and everyone else on the road in extreme danger. That text, phone call, or any other behavior taking your focus off your driving, can and should wait," said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the Michigan State Police. "We hope this traffic enforcement initiative will help change dangerous driver behavior."
Operation Ghost Rider was revealed at a press conference in Macomb County last year. During a total of 18 hours of enforcement, law enforcement officers conducted more than 907 traffic stops resulting in 726 citations and 34 arrests.
According to TIA, records indicate 72 people were killed and 7,652 were injured in 20,115 crashes involving a distracted driver during 2017.
"When operating a motor vehicle, we must always remember the importance of keeping our eyes on the road and hands on the wheel," said Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham. "Many lives depend on the choices we make. The Macomb County Sheriff's Office remains dedicated to ensuring everyone has a safe travel experience."
Drivers who use a hand-held device are 4 times more likely to get into a crash serious enough to cause injury according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash.
"Studies indicate a distracted driver takes their eyes off the road for 5 seconds every time they send or read a text message," said Chief Fred Posavetz of the Clinton Township Police Department. "At 55 MPH, that is the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field while blindfolded."