The Georgia Department of Transportation (Georgia DOT) and the Lutzie 43 Foundation held their fourth Safe Driving Summit on Feb. 28 in Gainesville, Georgia. The Safe Driving Summits are part of an ongoing partnership between Georgia DOT and Lutzie 43 to educate young drivers of the dangers of distracted, impaired and unsafe driving. Held at the Lanier Technical College, the Gainesville Safe Driving Summit provided high school students with an opportunity to hear from responders who are first on the scene of a crash including state and local law enforcement, ER/trauma doctors and nurses, as well as other presenters about the realities of how decisions behind the wheel can potentially impact the driver and other roadway users for the rest of their lives. Previous summits were held at other locations across the state in Carrolton, Statesboro and Columbus, Georgia.
“The team created to host these Safe Driving Summits continues to make a lasting impact on hundreds of local high school students,” said Sam Harris, Assistant State Traffic Engineer for the Georgia DOT. “Not only do the presenters deliver powerful breakout sessions and presentations, but they all care about making our roads safer by teaching young drivers about the dangers of distracted, impaired and unsafe driving. Everyone on the team believes and works towards the goal of reducing the number of crashes and fatalities caused by distracted driving in Georgia. Georgia DOT and the Lutzie 43 Foundation appreciate the opportunity to bring this event to Gainesville and positively impact young drivers in another Georgia community.”
The Safe Driving Summits specifically target young drivers, as they are statistically the most likely to be in a crash resulting in a fatality. Through breakout sessions and keynote presentations, high school students are taught best practices in a vehicle, such as wearing your seatbelt, staying off your phone, and not speeding while driving. By starting these best practices as young drivers, they can create good habits that will carry through the rest of their lives.
Despite a decrease in vehicles on the road due to the COVID-19 pandemic, during the same time period Georgia saw an increase in traffic fatalities. In 2021 alone, 1,844 people died on Georgia’s roads. That’s 125 more than 2020 and an average of approximately five deaths every day. Unfortunately, this troubling trend is not isolated to Georgia. Similar increases in traffic fatalities were seen nationwide and have been attributed to increased speeds, reduced seatbelt use, distracted driving and driving under the influence. These startling statistics are one of the factors that led to the Georgia DOT and Lutzie 43 Foundation forming a partnership in 2021. Together, the two organizations are on a mission to educate drivers, especially young drivers, about the dangers of distracted, impaired and unsafe driving through the Georgia DOT’s Drive Alert Arrive Alive campaign and the Lutzie 43 Foundation’s 43 Key Seconds safe driving initiative. The message remains to all drivers: Drive Alert Arrive Alive by taking 43 Key Seconds to ensure you have a clear head, clear hands, clear eyes and click your seatbelt before turning your key.
Georgia DOT’s Drive Alert Arrive Alive campaign is a statewide safety initiative to educate drivers about simple changes they can make in their driving behavior to prevent crashes, improve safety and save lives. Simple tasks like buckling up, staying off your phone and not driving impaired or drowsy are key messages of the campaign and are ways drivers can take responsibility to protect themselves, their passengers, other motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists. For more information on Drive Alert Arrive Alive and GDOT’s other safety programs, please visit https://www.dot.ga.gov/GDOT/Pages/Safety.aspx.
The Lutzie 43 Foundation – founded by Mike Lutzenkirchen following the death of his son, Philip, in 2014 – aims to encourage and empower all drivers to be positive ambassadors for safe driving through character development, mentorship and real-world application. The foundation’s 43 Key Seconds safe driving initiative aims to create the first nationally-recognized symbol for distracted, impaired and unsafe driving awareness and prevention. For more information, visit www.lutzie43.org.
If your school is interested in hosting or participating in a Safe Driving Summit, please reach out to Georgia DOT’s State Safety Engineering Manager Sam Harris at email@example.com.