Law Enforcement Agencies Team Up to Eliminate Distracted Driving through Operation Ghost Rider

Contact: Jim Santilli, CEO, (248) 334-4971

Deputy Michael Dixon of the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office makes a traffic stop on Tuesday.

STERLING HEIGHTS, Michigan, April 23, 2019 – In recognition of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Michigan motorists are being reminded to avoid distractions while driving by keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

Law enforcement officers from local police departments, the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office, and Michigan State Police will begin conducting Operation Ghost Rider on Thursday. The goal is to reduce distracted driving deaths and injuries. This lifesaving initiative is being coordinated by the Transportation Improvement Association (TIA).

“Even though many drivers know it’s extremely dangerous, distracted driving continues to be a major problem,” said Jim Santilli, CEO of TIA. “As drivers, we need to care about the innocent people traveling around us by always paying attention. Together, we can stop this dangerous and preventable behavior that has sadly killed and injured far too many people.”

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, Chesterfield Township Police Department, Clinton Township Police Department, Macomb County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police, Shelby Township Police Department, Sterling Heights Police Department, and Utica Police Department.

“Distracted drivers put themselves and everyone around them in danger,” said Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham. “No text message, social media update, or any other behavior that takes your eyes off the road is worth ending a life or causing an injury. We hope Operation Ghost Rider will change driver behavior so everyone can reach their destination safely.”

Operation Ghost Rider was revealed at a press conference in Macomb County in 2017. During a total of 18 hours of enforcement, law enforcement officers conducted more than 907 traffic stops resulting in 726 citations and 34 arrests. In 2018, officers stopped 530 vehicles, issued 440 citations, and made 9 arrests in a 6-hour period.

According to TIA, records indicate 77 people were killed and 7,213 were injured in 18,927 crashes involving a distracted driver in Michigan during 2018.

“It is important to remember that distracted driving is totally preventable,” said F/Lt. Michael Shaw, public information officer of the Michigan State Police. “Please remember that you must keep both hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. We look forward to working with our local and county partners to educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.”

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 that on average, a driver takes their eyes off the road for 4.6 of every 6 seconds every time they send or read a text message,” said Chief Brad Kersten of the Chesterfield Township Police Department. “At 55 MPH, that is the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed.”

In addition to conducting distracted driving education and enforcement initiatives since 2011, TIA officially announced the hands-free Michigan movement on March 30, 2016 in partnership with Laurel Zimmerman. Zimmerman’s daughter, Ally, was hit by a distracted driver on December 28, 2010. She later died from her injuries.

Jim Freybler, who lost his son Jacob due to distracted driving, is also working with TIA to make Michigan a hands-free state.

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