ST. GEORGE – During one of the most dangerous driving weeks of the year, the City of St. George launched “Heads up, Thumbs up,” a comprehensive public awareness campaign aimed at reducing accidents from distracted driving. The campaign was announced today during a public press conference held in the parking lot across from the Dixie Rock on Red Hills Parkway.
Mayor Dan McArthur was in attendance, along with Mayor-elect Jon Pike, Police Chief Marlon Stratton and Erik Sorenson, president of Sorenson Advertising. Sorenson Advertising has donated its staff’s time and energy towards the campaign.
Also attending the conference was Leslee Henson, who lost her husband David and was seriously injured herself last March in an accident caused by a distracted driver. Henson said that, since the accident, her family has been on a quest to educate people about the dangers of distracted driving.
“We are so thrilled that St. George has seen the need to stop this epidemic,” Henson said.
The public awareness campaign was devised by St. George Police Officer Mark Biehl after seeing what a dramatic effect a similar campaign in Logan had in reducing accidents.
“Logan City Police started a distracted driving program a few years ago and were able to reduce their crashes by 25 to 30 percent,” Officer Biehl said. “I thought St. George needs something like that.”
The first phase of the campaign will create awareness of the epidemic that is distracted driving and how it affects the St. George community. The second phase will focus on enforcement efforts that are scheduled to begin January 2014; however, the focus on the campaign will be education rather than enforcement, St. George Police Deputy Chief Richard Farnsworth said.
“Enforcement is a real small part of this,” Farnsworth said. The primary purpose of the campaign, he said, is to help make people aware of the consequences of distracted driving before they get behind the wheel, as opposed to citing them afterward. “In my mind, that’s a good thing,” Farnsworth said, “we’d rather have public compliance, voluntarily.”
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Videocast by Michael Flynn, St. George News
The city has also launched a Heads Up, Thumbs Up website where residents can become part of the solution by signing a pledge that they will not drive distracted. There will also be a Facebook page where residents are encouraged to post pictures of themselves with thumbs pointed up, letting their friends know that they have signed the pledge.
“We want residents to not only post and to take the pledge, but also to share it as much as possible,” Sorenson said.
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