Local officials encouraging safer driving

Shelton Police organized a mock DUI checkpoint procedure which featured a SHS student who was not under the influence during the reenactment. -- Aaron Berkowitz photo.
Shelton Police organized a mock DUI checkpoint procedure which featured a SHS student who was not under the influence during the reenactment. -- Aaron Berkowitz photo.

With the 4th of July weekend just days away, the Shelton Police Department, Valley Substance Abuse Council, and Next Street Driving School have teamed up to reduce the effects of distracted, reckless, or driving under the influence by sharing tips, facts, and by reenacting a DUI check.

Mayor Mark Lauretti said the issue of unsafe driving affects every level of society and on the holiday weekend especially, assuring everyone’s safety is important.

“It’s important to focus on awareness and education and let people know that someone is paying attention and we want them to do the right thing,” said Mayor Lauretti.

Interim Chief of Shelton Police Shawn Sequeira said combatting the issue of irresponsible driving requires working with all members of the community and a lot of the responsibility falls on the individual.

“I urge everyone to be safe and enjoy the holiday. Common sense and good judgement go a long way,” said Chief Sequeira. “We urge residents, especially our teenage drivers, to please follow the rules of the road and avoid distractions. Whether operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or texting and driving, anything that impedes your focus could end with serious consequences.”

The Chief added that there will be an increase in the enforcement of safe driving over the course of the weekend to assure everyone’s safety and he is urging everyone to comply with police’s orders.

Rather than driving under the influence or distracted, officers suggest drivers to consider using Uber, a taxi service, or making plans for a designated driver rather than operating a vehicle irresponsibly or while under the influence.

Traffic Division Sergeant Millinger placed emphasis on the misconception of driving under the influence being more dangerous than distracted driving.

“Texting while driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving,” said Sergeant Millinger.

He added that the leading cause of death among children up to the age of seven is drowning so be safe and monitor kids to assure their safety, and do not allow them to use fireworks at anytime.

The press conference also featured Brandon Dufour from “The Next Street” Driving School Educate who helps to educate over 15,000 teens annually. Dufour said typically this type of discussion occurs following a tragedy, but this year they’re taking a different approach.

“Today we’re talking about ahead of a tragedy happening and we’re able to say use this holiday weekend as an opportunity to talk to your teens and new drivers friends and family about all the risks ahead of time,” said Dufour.

Before the weekend kicks off, Dufour suggested reinstating the house rules for driving and making sure teens understand the effects of a bad decision can last a lifetime.

“It’s supposed to be a fun weekend, it’s supposed to be a weekend  we can all celebrate with friends and family. Let’s do that but let's do it with safety in mind and make sure that we don’t have to do this press conference after the weekend about a tragedy that happened. Be smart don’t drink and drive don’t text and drive. Have backup plans in place early and get home safe,” said Dufour.

Director of the Valley Substance Abuse Council Pam Mautte said the ages of children in the Valley is alarming.

According to Mautte, during a 2016 survey of Valley students it was revealed that 16% of 11th graders and 9% 9th graders recall riding as a passenger in a vehicle in which the driver was under the influence of alcohol or another drug. Also, 5% of those 11th graders admitted to driving under the influence.

Mautte encourages parents to discuss ways which your teen can leave a situation comfortably and create a code where they can call or text you without any questions asked.

Mautte explained that the explained Social Host Law also means you can be held liable if someone under or over the age of 21 leaves your residence impaired and that buzzed driving is the same as drunk driving

Police said the safety precautions provided also apply to those driving a boat or any other type of motor vehicle.

Below are a list of safe driving tips: 

• Don’t text and drive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports a quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive. Additionally, NHTSA reports that the average text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. While traveling at 55 miles per hour, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.

• If you can, while behind the wheel, keep your phone off. This will help ensure drivers’ focus remains solely on the road. NHTSA reports that engaging in tasks like reaching for your phone, dialing and texting increases the risk of getting into a crash threefold.

• Never get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking and don’t get in a vehicle with an impaired

driver. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2015, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31 percent) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.

• Obey the speed limit. Speeding is a major contributor to motor vehicle accidents and fatal car crashes.

Don’t feel pressured to speed to keep up with traffic or friends on the road. Also, speeding tickets are often pricey and will result in an increase on your insurance premium.

• Be a defensive driver. Remain cognizant of the traffic ahead, behind, and next to you at all times. Stay at least one car length behind the car in front of you, especially in areas where the speed limit is slower.

Remember to share the road with bikers on side streets, even if arrows are not marked. Turn your headlights on to increase visibility.

For more tips or information visit VSAC.org. Have a safe holiday weekend.