Arlington Once Again Recognized for Traffic Safety Programs
By Susan Schrock
Posted on March 28, 2016, March 28, 2016

In 2015, 22 people were killed or fatally injured on Arlington roadways. Thirteen drivers, seven pedestrians, a bicyclist and a 5-year-old passenger lost their lives in traffic accidents. Many of those deaths could have been prevented. The drivers involved were intoxicated, distracted or driving aggressively in all but two of the crashes.

To help save lives, the City of Arlington has increased its efforts to educate drivers on traffic safety and make improvements to its streets and highways, which are traveled by 365,000 residents and 6.8 million visitors annually.

Arlington was among 18 cities across the state recently recognized by the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center. This is Arlington's fourth year to win an award for its traffic safety programs.

"For Arlington, it's great to win an award but what is more important is that we stress traffic safety to our residents and visitors," Municipal Court Judge Teresa Evans said. "The City is taking a proactive approach to do whatever we can to educate drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclist to reduce as many traffic accidents as we can."

Below are a few highlights from 2015 that illustrate Arlington's continued commitment to promoting traffic safety.

Arlington Once Again Recognized for Traffic Safety Programs

Educating Drivers, Pedestrians, and Cyclists

EcoFest and Bike Safety Town - EcoFest was held in downtown Arlington on September 19, 2015. Attendees at this event can see products and techniques designed to preserve natural resources and participate in environmentally friendly activities such as planting trees, filtering water and bicycling. Bike Safety Town is part of the event and provides medical professionals with an opportunity to teach parents and children how to properly size and wear a safety helmet. Bicycling specialists are present on an obstacle course to demonstrate proper riding habits, including the use of hand and arm signals. The Court's traffic safety booth is operated within Bike Safety Town so that children and parents can receive information on bicycle safety, the use of helmets and other important traffic safety topics.

Our Driving Concern - For several years, employees were required to complete a brief driving safety course before operating a city-owned vehicle. However, Our Driving Concern was implemented in 2015 to provide traffic safety information to all 3,200 full and part-time employees throughout the year. This is a Texas Employer Traffic Safety program funded by a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation. Risk Manager Robert Warren kicked off the program with a train-the-trainer session for supervisors and fleet managers on September 2. Employees now have access to driving safety materials to help them reduce accidents when operating a city vehicle and their own personal cars and trucks too. Cartoons, statistics and survivor interviews are tools used to teach the importance of wearing a seatbelt and the dangers caused by impaired, distracted, or aggressive driving. Each month, traffic safety messages are posted on the City's intranet service. Employees are asked to sign a petition to always wear a seatbelt and to never text while driving.

Efforts to Reduce Impaired and Distracted Driving

Amber Menefee Mobile Memorial - To bring attention to the dangers of driving while intoxicated, the Arlington Municipal Court requested use of the Amber Menefee Mobile Memorial during Red Ribbon Week in October 2015. Detective Sam Owens of the Prosper Police Department transported the trailer which houses the car Amber was driving when she was struck and killed by a drunk driver on February 11, 2006. Her basketball jersey and a recent photo are displayed within the glass walls. The outside of the trailer includes Amber's story and a copy of the police report showing the arrest of another young woman for intoxication manslaughter. A video of Amber's life through the night she was killed accompanies the trailer. It includes interviews with her mother and aunt who discuss the impact of her death on their lives as well as the life of the drunk driver and her family.

Arlington Once Again Recognized for Traffic Safety Programs

Teens were able to earn community service hours for their schools, scouts, youth groups or to satisfy a court order by attending an event featuring the memorial. Participating teens watched the memorial video and viewed the trailer with Amber's car and personal belongings including the shoes she was wearing the night of her death.

Officer Stacie Brown and the Arlington Police Department's DWI Unit - For several years, Officer Stacie Brown has made presentations throughout the Arlington area to educate drivers on the dangers of driving while intoxicated. She taught over 100 classes in 2015 based on her professional and personal experiences. Twenty years ago, her sister was an intoxicated driver killed in a DWI accident. On two separate occasions in the past three years, Officer Brown was trapped in her patrol car after being hit by an intoxicated driver and a driver who is suspected of texting while driving. Her program includes segments on DWI, distracted driving and the effects of controlled substances, prescription medication or over-the-counter drugs. Based on the increase in deaths of pedestrians and cyclists, she recently added these topics too. In 2015, she began a new class for parents of teens. Information on how to recognize possible drug use by a child as well as the types of substances being used to alter behavior are discussed. Items used to camouflage drugs and resources for testing and counseling are also displayed.

Special Programs for At-Risk Teens - This year the court joined forces with Officer Brown and the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service to provide impaired and distracted driving programs at Turning Point Junior High and Venture High School which are alternative schools for at-risk students. The DWI simulator, fatal vision goggles and pedal car from Texas A&M were used at both campuses during Municipal Courts Week. Officer Brown was present to administer field sobriety tests and "arrest" the teens who failed. The presentation at Venture High School was even more meaningful due to a tree marked with memorials for four young persons killed in a recent DWI accident. The tree is located in a median adjacent to where the pedal car was operated. This event was filmed by the police department, and is currently being edited for use in soliciting grants to help fund the DWI unit and traffic safety programs.

DWI Arrests and Blood Draw Warrants - 1,150 persons were arrested by the Arlington Police Department for driving while intoxicated in 2015; many during the 13 periods of No Refusal. By utilizing a grant from the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office, the DWI Unit employed a certified nurse to collect blood specimens at the police headquarters from 9:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. each day of the No Refusal periods. Over 420 blood draw warrants were signed by Arlington judges in 2015.

Targeting Distracted Driving - The Arlington City Council passed an ordinance in November 2011 which prohibits drivers on city roadways from using a wireless device to text, email, search the internet or visit on social media while operating a motor vehicle. Since that time, Public Works and Transportation employees have placed 41 signs on city streets and highways warning drivers that it is illegal to use a wireless device in Arlington for any purpose other than a telephone. More than 200 citations have been issued for violating the ordinance since 2011, and just two were dismissed by the State. More than 75% of the persons cited have resolved their cases with payment and/or deferred disposition.

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