LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL -- David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), on June 15 presented the agency's top Public Service Awards to 15 safety advocates and organizations during the 30th annual Lifesavers Conference. Each year NHTSA recognizes safety leaders from around the country for making outstanding contributions to improving highway safety.
The Lifesavers group is a national nonprofit organization of private and public groups and individuals dedicated to improving highway safety. The Lifesavers meeting provides a forum for safety advocates to share the latest data and best practices.
"While safety has always been our agency's highest priority, we rely on the continued leadership of safety practitioners across the country to help tackle the most dangerous driving practices – whether the issue is drunk driving, seatbelt use or distraction," Strickland said. "The honorees today know firsthand the kind of dedication needed to keep our roadways safe, from promoting traffic safety in their communities, to developing and implementing innovative programs, to providing invaluable hands-on experience on a daily basis."
NHTSA data show that highway deaths fell to 32,885 in 2010, the lowest level since 1949. The record-breaking decline in traffic fatalities occurred even as American drivers traveled nearly 46 billion more miles during the year, an increase of 1.6 percent over the 2009 level. 2010 also saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded -- with 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010, down from 1.15 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2009. Early estimates for 2011 fatality and injury data indicate these historic lows continued through last year.
Here are the 15 public service award winners:
• Sonja Atkins , coordinator of Safe Kids Greater Sacramento Coalition in Carmichael, Calif. -- In recognition of key efforts and support resulting in the passage of California's booster seat law in October 2011.
• Chief John R. Batiste, Washington State Patrol in Olympia, Wash. -- In recognition of outstanding achievements in reducing traffic deaths in Washington State through the Target Zero Teams and through leadership in the fight against impaired driving.
• State Sen. Shirley Breeden, Nevada Senate in Henderson, Nev. -- In recognition of personal commitment to traffic safety, going beyond civic duty to protect motorists on Nevada roadways.
• Dia Gainor, executive director of National Association of State EMS Officials in Falls Church, Va. -- In recognition of outstanding national leadership in enhancing collaboration among highway safety, public health, transportation and emergency medical services.
• Kevin Greene, chief of ground safety - 436 AW/SEG at Dover Air Force Base Wing Safety Office at Dover AFB in Del. -- In recognition of leadership in stressing the importance of everyday traffic safety to a select group of young men who are difficult to reach.
• Capt. Bill Hisle of Shawnee Police Department in Shawnee, Kan. -- In recognition of superior leadership and special dedication to advancing the Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety initiative, both regionally and nationally, to reduce motor vehicle crashes and social harm in communities.
• Ludorum PLC, the corporate owner of the Chuggington Children's TV and Web Media in New York, N.Y. -- In recognition of outstanding contributions to the safety of children through the promotion of child safety seats, pedestrian safety and bicycle safety.
• Col. (Ret.) Kenneth L. Morckel, former director of Ohio Department of Public Safety in Dublin, Ohio -- In recognition of lifelong dedication to public service and commitment to traffic safety.
• Lowell M. Porter, former director of Washington State Traffic Safety Commission in Gig Harbor, Wash. -- In recognition of lifelong leadership, commitment and dedication to traffic safety.
• Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. in Baton Rouge, La. -- In recognition of the sorority's dedication and passion for traffic safety and for its efforts above and beyond the call of duty to educate African-American residents about traffic safety.
• Stephen K. Talpins, CEO of National Partnership on Alcohol Misuse and Crime in Davie, Fla. -- In recognition of outstanding contributions and dedication to law enforcement officers and prosecutors in removing impaired drivers from the highways.
• State Sen. John Tassoni of the Rhode Island General Assembly in Providence, R.I. -- In recognition of perseverance toward enactment of a primary seat belt law to save lives and to prevent injuries from traffic crashes in Rhode Island.
• Dr. Stewart Wang (M.D., Ph.D., FACS), director of the International Center for Automotive Medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. -- In recognition of his ability to foster automotive innovations and to make cars safer.
• State Rep. Katherine M. Watson of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in Warrington Township, Pa. -- In recognition of leadership in enhancing teen driver safety and the safety of all highway users in the Keystone State.
• State Rep. Anastasia Williams of the Rhode Island General Assembly in Providence, R.I. -- In recognition of perseverance toward enactment of a primary seat belt law to save lives and to prevent injuries from traffic crashes in Rhode Island.