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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UMC promotes safe driving

University Medical Center joined a new campaign to continue warning Tucsonans about the dangers of unsafe driving.

The center is participating in the Picture a Safer Tucson campaign, a public education effort related to the increased enforcement of speeding laws by the Tucson Police Department. UMC will help advertise the dangers of speeding in addition to its billboard campaign against red-light running.

Picture a Safer Tucson is a two-year outreach campaign sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Information distributed through the media, advertisements and community partners seek to explain the risks of speeding and why enforcement is necessary. The campaign will later be evaluated to measure the change in the frequency of speeding and crashes to see if public attitudes toward speeding change.

“”So people aren’t just getting tickets, but there’s understanding of why speeding is a problem,”” said Whitney Hayes, communications specialist for Picture a Safer Tucson.

Tucson had the second highest rate of motor vehicle crashes in Arizona in 2009, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation Intermodal Transportation Division. There were 9,722 crashes in Tucson, including 27 fatal crashes with 30 resulting fatalities.

Driving with a speed too fast for conditions was cited as the most frequent driver violation. Speed was a factor in 16.73 percent of all crashes in Arizona and 15.57 percent of all fatal crashes. The information is used by the campaign to show the danger of speeding.

“”We’ve been pretty fact heavy because we believe the numbers speak for themselves,”” Hayes said.

Workers at UMC treat many of these crash victims. The center sees 13 serious trauma victims each day, according to Dan Judkins, trauma educator and injury epidemiologist at UMC.

He said about 60 percent of these people are injured in motor vehicle crashes. Judkins said speeding and red-light running are significant factors in many of the accidents.

“”There’s some type of driving culture in Arizona promoting these types of these behaviors,”” Judkins said.

UMC launched the “”Red Means Stop”” billboard campaign in 2007 after a study ranked Tucson fourth in the nation for its prevalence of red-light runners. The billboards outside the medical center and around Tucson serve as a reminder for drivers to consider their safety and the safety of others.

“”Yeah, it’s irritating if you’re trying to get somewhere,”” Judkins said of stopping at a red light. “”If you stop, you lose a minute or two in your commute, but it isn’t going to be the end of your day.””

The center decided to participate in the Picture a Safer Tucson campaign to continue raising awareness about dangerous driving. The difference between driving 30 mph and 40 mph significantly affects safety, Judkins said.

“”That extra 10 miles per hour doubles your chance of dying or having serious injuries (in a crash),”” he said.

Billboards, advertisements and public service announcements will convey the message.

“”In every venue we can, we’ll say the same thing for the next couple of years,”” Judkins said.

The campaign is also working to promote the message to students through an internship search and poster competition. Students can design a poster discouraging speeding, especially in males 18 to 34 years old, to be printed and distributed.

Engineering freshman Eric Watters said he occasionally speeds to keep up with the flow of traffic, or when he is in a hurry. He said seeing statistics about the danger of speeding might affect his behavior.

“”I think it would have a small effect,”” Watters said. “”Just knowing the risk and having all the numbers would help to make better decisions.””

Elizabeth Riedel, a junior studying nursing and religious studies, said she normally goes about five miles over the speed limit to stay with the flow of traffic and frequently witnesses dangerous driving.

“”People will be very impatient when you’re in a right turn lane,”” Riedel said. “”They’ll speed up after you and go 60 (mph) on a city street.””

She said the effectiveness of the campaign will vary from person to person.

“”I think some speeders may take heed because they’re not impatient. It’s just a bad habit,”” Riedel said. “”I think some people are stubborn and will continue to speed even if they know the danger.””  

By the Numbers:

There were 709 fatal crashes and 806 resulting fatalities in Arizona in 2009.

The most common types of crashes were rear-end collisions.

Motor vehicle crashes were estimated to cost Pima County $379,699,998 in fatalities, injuries and property damage in 2009.

Source: Arizona Department of Transportation Intermodal Transportation Division.

373 lives were lost in speed-related traffic crashes in Arizona in 2008.

In 2008, speeding was a contributing factor in 31 percent of all fatal crashes nationwide.

88 percent of all speed-related traffic fatalities occur on local roads, where the posted speed limits are less than 55 miles per hour.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


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