- 1 of 2
(Second of a two-part series)
THE Department of Public Works’ Office of Highway Safety has set a goal to reduce traffic fatalities, road crashes and drunk driving each by 10 percent by December 2012 through increased road safety awareness, aggressive traffic law enforcement, and by cracking down on booze behind the wheels.
“The Office of Highway Safety will continue to work with traffic safety stakeholders including government agencies/departments and all law enforcement agencies and grant recipients on the island,” OHS stated in the Guam 2012 Highway Safety Plan submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Guam safety plan, a requirement to justify the $500,000 annual grant from NHTSA, laid out OHS’ programs and strategies that include increased police presence and aggressive prosecution of drunk drivers.
“The Office of Highway Safety will continue a strong emphasis on high-visibility enforcement with the Guam Police Department and the Airport Police Division,” the Guam safety plan states. “The Office of Highway Safety will also continue to look into new and innovative ways to conquer the impaired driving problem.”
Of the $511,823 NHTSA grant, approximately $200,000 has been allotted for GPD and Guam International Airport Police to cover the cost of increased sobriety checkpoints, particularly during holidays.
More and more road safety bills are coming out of the Legislature seeking to curb the deadly statistics on Guam.
Gov. Eddie Calvo yesterday signed into law Bill 420 which requires motorists with multiple traffic citations to take a course in driver’s safety. The law also authorizes the Division of Motor Vehicles to refuse application for license renewal unless the driver could provide traffic court clearance and proof of attendance in a safety program.
“If you have three moving violations, your license may not be renewed,” said Sen. Adolpho Palacio Sr., author of Bill 420.
The legislation seeks to help DMV and the Judiciary “identify and appropriately deal” with road-hazard motorists.
Palacios said the law covers all forms of moving violations such as speeding and beating the red light.
“The purpose of this law is to deter accidents and rehabilitate the person’s bad driving habit,” said Palacios, chairman of the committee on public safety, law enforcement and judiciary. “We have adequate road signs; we don’t have bad roads; we only have drivers with bad habits.”
Road Safety Laws
Sen. Adolpho Palacios’ Bill 420 has brought to six the number of new traffic and road safety laws that came out of the 31st Guam Legislature. Others include:
- PL 31-143, which seeks to protect blind pedestrians;
- P.L. 31-51, which increases the penalties for bus drivers “who disregard the safety” of their student passengers;
- P.L. 31-83, which requires adequate repair and restoration of public roads;
- P.L. 31-36, which increases the penalties for operators of large vehicles driving at excessive speed and making improper turns and lane changes;
- P.L. 31-195, which bans talking on a mobile phone while driving; and
- P.L. 31-208, which requires motorists convicted of reckless driving to take up defensive driving classes.
Guam Public Safety Education (GPSE) is the only company on Guam that offers a defensive driving program, which started in 2011.
“I started developing this program in 2009 prior to [P.L. 31-208]," said Robert Michael, owner of GPSE.
He said the program can help reduce Guam’s traffic accidents by 21 percent.
Michael said Guam has good road infrastructure and adequate traffic laws, which may be good only if motorists learn proper driving. “Whatever road conditions [we are in], we are still in control of how we respond,” he said.
Michael said moods and attitudes behind the wheels – which cause aggressive and distracted driving – are among major factors that contribute to the growing crash statistics on Guam.
“There are a lot of distractions while driving. People worry about their finances, or their sick relative, or there are children crying in the backseat,” Michael said. “Sometimes, you’re late for work or in a hurry for an appointment so you drive beyond the speed limit.”
He also said talking on the phone while driving, even with a hands-free device, can cause driving distraction. “This is a cognitive factor that is not commonly addressed,” Michael said.
Dealing with distractions and practicing safe driving are among the topics covered by GPSE’s defensive driving curriculum.
Michael’s GPSE was modeled after his own family’s company called Public Safety Education established in San Diego in 1972.
“They were leaders in the defensive driving industry. They have developed a program based on emergency driving technique,” Michael said. “They used it for people who got too many tickets and citations.”
Michael, who managed the family business in 1990, developed the same curriculum for Guam in 2009, in partnership with the National Traffic Safety Institute.
While the regular driving schools on Guam hold classes as a requirement for license applicants, GPSE offers the program to licensed motorists who want to earn defensive driving certificates.
His current clients are companies with fleet drivers.
“We hear commercials that say ‘Drive Safely, Guam,’” Michael said. “That’s nice and that feels good. But we have to tell people how to do it practically by actually showing them and not just using the phrase.”