Saturday, November 27, 2010

May Have Fresh New Singer For Part II

I am happy to be auditioning singers for MarkerMemories Part II. It will be nice working with a new singer as we continue efforts to make our highways safer. Hope to have more details soon.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Florida's Memorial Markers

Citizen News
Markers: safety and sentiment

Published Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Across the country, the signs of loved ones lost are everywhere, from crosses placed by the American Legion in Montana to South Dakota’s diamond-shaped “Why die?” signs to Florida’s round, personalized “Drive Safely” markers,

Although federal law prohibits placing makeshift memorials, or anything else, in the right of way on its highways, states are permitted to legislate their own policy on fatality signage.

According to Debbie Tower, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida’s tribute signs were deliberately designed to be homogenous in 1997.

“We created a design that was non-denominational for obvious reasons,” she says, of the round, 15-inch diameter aluminum signs on five-foot poles, “We were sensitive to that. People are appreciative of the remembrance.”

Fifty-two of the Sunshine State’s memorial markers are posted along Collier County state and federal highways.

The markers feature a white background and black letters reading, “Drive Safely, In Memory,” followed by the deceased’s full name.

Requests for memorial markers may be made by immediate family members or friends, with requests from friends requiring the approval of the deceased’s immediate family.

Tower said it is up to each district’s operations manager to determine whether and where to place a memorial marker. Sometimes the markers are not placed at the exact location of the fatality, due to restricted space, safety concerns, property owner complaints or other constraints. The department installs markers only on designated state roads and does not have the authority to place them on city or county roadways. Memorial markers will not be erected where they are prohibited by the local governmental entity.

“The field manager has to decide if it’s too close to an intersection or sidewalk or utilities,” she says. “People were putting markers in completely inappropriate places. In North Fort Myers, I remember that someone anchored a cross in the ground with a 10-gallon can of cement. Obviously, that didn’t meet specifications.”

To avoid people taking such measures into their own hands, the state not only approves locations, but pays for the creation and installation of the makers, which are manufactured at the FDOT sign fabrication facility.

“It’s a relatively inexpensive program,” Tower said. “We work smart. Our maintenance crews can install them very quickly, but we do it as a part of regular work assignments in an area.”

For that reason, there may lag time of up to two months from approval of a request to installation, according to Stu Myer, an FDOT roadside specialist.

Myer recommended those wishing to have a marker established for a loved one make their request within two years of the fatality. Under state policy, the marker remains at the site for one year unless it has to be moved for construction or maintenance purposes. He said families can request that the sign stay up longer, but approval depends on several factors.

“If we left all those signs up forever, we’d have polka dots up and down the highway,” Myer said.

Collier County has no policy regarding standardized memorials on local roads, but according to public information officer Connie Deane, placing homemade tributes in the right of way is not permitted.

While the “Drive Safely” portion of Florida’s memorial markers is relatively easy to read, the names of the fatality victim can be difficult to read from the roadway without slowing down.

Tower warns drivers not to do that, adding that decoration of the signs is also discouraged for safety reasons.

“We worry a lot about untrained people working in the rights-of-way. We had so many instances of people pulling off the highway to place memorials at the scene of fatal car accident that it became a hazardous situation,” she says. “We recognized that people wanted to remember loved ones lost and also remind people to drive safely.”

To request a marker, go online to and click on memorial markers.

One Marker's Story

Citizen News
Florida memorial marker serves as loved one's headstone

Published Tuesday, February 2, 2010


That’s what Dan Hoolihan calls the memorial markers that dot the highways of Florida.

But it’s a term of endearment for Hoolihan, whose own experience with the little round signs is highly personal. On Dec. 18, 2005, he lost his brother David to a ATV accident at Exit 105 at I-75 and Golden Gate Parkway.

“The signs are supposed to promote safety, because when you see one you know somebody died right there. But for us, it’s a headstone, because we had him cremated and there is no headstone,” he says of the marker, tucked into the landscaping on the northwest quadrant. “There’s nothing left but that little lollipop to mark the last place he was alive; the place where he went to heaven.”

David, 41, and his girlfriend were riding ATV’s near his home late at night when he his four-wheeler hit a pile of asphalt left over from construction of the southbound exit ramp. He flew over the handlebars and was instantly killed.

While authorities suggested David had tried to jump the pile, Dan believes his brother was looking over his shoulder to see how far behind him his girlfriend was, when he accidentally hit the pile of concrete.

“He was a bit of a daredevil; he was always trying to jump everything,” says Dan. “But he was a very talented driver and motocross rider. He wasn’t trying to jump it. It was just a freak accident.”

Dan says his brother would have have been surprised in life to know that he would one day die in an ATV accident.

“He’d kick himself in the butt, looking back, that he went that way,” he says, “knowing he died doing something he loved.”

Dan heard about the memorial marker program from friends and requested the marker, which was installed at the completion of the interchange in 2008.

Today, he is devoted to beautifying the little patch around the marker with landscaping and fresh flowers in memory of his brother. He also decorates the marker for certain holidays. At Christmas, the marker featured a photo of David wearing a Christmas hat emblazoned with the words “Bah Humbug.”

“David was just huge on Christmas and Halloween,” says Dan. “Christmas wasn’t so much about presents as decorating and getting people together, so we have an annual party on Dec. 18 in his memory. It’s a comforting thing we do.”

But according to Debbie Tower, of the Florida Department of Transportation, the agency dissuades people from decorating the markers, which are placed for one year.

“It’s one of the reasons why the state has the program,” she says. “We don’t want to see anything else occur at these locations -- having people in the roadway medians poses a significant safety hazard. That’s why we require permits for any kind of work along the roadways.”

Dan said he was not aware of the one-year marker requirements.

“A year isn’t long enough to leave a marker up, because they really are for the families They’re so far off the road it’s not like anyone can read them,” Dan says “But, I wish people would clean up after themselves, you know, pick up the raggedy teddy bears and faded flowers. It’s okay to decorate the signs, as long as people don’t abuse it and it’s not a distraction to drivers.

“I like visiting the marker, because it’s the closest I’ll ever get to where David was last alive. I take comfort from that little sign. If the state takes it down, I’d be really upset; I’d pay whatever it takes to keep it there,” Dan says in a choked voice. “He touched a lot of people’s lives. He touched the hearts of everybody he met; he just had a way about him. He was way too young to die. We all miss him to death.”

Friday, January 15, 2010

Traffic Crashes Send 3.5 Million to ERs

Traffic Crashes Send 3.5 Million to ERs
Of those, 8,000 died in emergency department, federal report shows

THURSDAY, Jan. 14, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. hospital emergency departments treated 3.5 million motor vehicle crash victims who had injuries ranging from bruises and scrapes to life-threatening trauma in 2006, a new government study finds.

About 85 percent (3 million) of the patients were treated and released, 321,000 were admitted or transferred to another acute care hospital for inpatient care, and about 8,000 patients died in the emergency department, according to the latest News and Numbers, released Wednesday by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The analysis of 2006 data also found that:

* 37 percent of crash victims were treated in hospital trauma centers equipped to provide comprehensive emergency medical care to patients with life-threatening injuries, while the rest were treated in hospitals not designated as trauma centers.

* About 55 percent of the patients had private health insurance, 25 percent were uninsured, 10 percent had Medicaid coverage, 4 percent had Medicare coverage, and 7 percent had other types of coverage.

* 44 percent of the injuries treated were sprains, 35 percent were superficial injuries such as scrapes, 15 percent were fractures, 10 percent were open wounds, 5 percent were head injuries, and 3 percent were internal injuries of the thorax, abdomen and pelvis.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Distracted Drivers

FocusDriven Seeks to Crack Down on Distracted Drivers

Federal government, safety group target use of cell phones and texting devices

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- More than 500,000 people were injured and nearly 6,000 people were killed last year in motor-vehicle accidents involving a driver who was distracted while using a cell phone or texting device, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported Tuesday.

To cut down on the growing number of injuries and deaths caused by distracted drivers, federal officials and safety advocacy groups have joined forces to get states to ban such activities while driving.

"We are on a rampage about this," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference. "Distracted driving is a serious, life-threatening epidemic that steals loved ones from us and puts responsible drivers in danger."

Accidents involving cell phone use and texting are "entirely preventable,"
he said.

An estimated 100 people die every day in traffic accidents in the United States, National Safety Council President Janet Froetscher said during the press conference. A year ago the council called for a total ban on cell phone use while driving, she said.

"Twenty-eight percent of all crashes are caused by the use of cell phone and texting devices each year," she said.

"We estimate that 25 percent of crashes, or 1.4 million crashes each year, are caused by drivers using their cell phones, and an additional 3 percent are caused by drivers that are using texting devices," Froetscher added.

Using a cell phone or a texting device while driving increases the risk of an accident eight to 23 times, she said, adding, "No cell phone call or text message is worth somebody's life."

The federal government has already taken steps to crack down on cell phone calling and texting while driving. LaHood said that President Barack Obama on Dec. 30 issued an executive order banning federal employees from using cell phones and texting devices while behind the wheel.

And Congress is considering a bill that would offer states incentives to pass laws against cell phone use while driving, and to punish states without such bans, La Hood said.

LaHood said he believes in tough laws and penalties, but he's not waiting for Congress to act. "We are not going to sit around, we are not going to wait around for Congress -- we're moving ahead," he said.

As part of Tuesday's press conference, LaHood announced the formation of a group called FocusDriven, made up of people who have lost a relative to an accident caused by a driver talking on a cell phone or texting.

"We are molded as a MADD-styled (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) campaign to protect the drivers of our nation's roadways," said Jennifer Smith, a FocusDriven board member who lost her mother in a car accident involving a distracted driver.

"Our mission is to prevent injuries and save lives by eliminating cell phone use while driving," she added.

Said LaHood: "It's up to all of us to keep our eyes on the road every single time we are behind the wheel."

To learn more, visit the FocusDriven Web site.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Memorial Marks Spot Where Mother, Daughter Killed


Jan. 1, 2010 -- PORT NECHES -- A cold December wind made ripples in Larry Dupuis' jacket as he stood at the spot where his wife and daughter were killed three years ago.

Two white crosses, each adorned with a wreath, bear the names Rowena Dupuis and Karmen Dupuis and the words 'was killed at this location by a drunk driver.'

Dupuis, who is blind, was accompanied by his mother-in-law Ruby Myers, and members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving for the placement of the two markers on Thursday at the intersection of Magnolia and Merriman in Port Neches.

The markers are a way to bring awareness to the public of the dangers of driving under the influence, Kathy Bell-Schexnaider, a senior victim advocate with the Beaumont chapter of MADD.

Large commercial vehicles roared past, their noise intermingled with the revving of a motorcycle and the occasional honk of a car horn during the solemn New Years Eve ceremony.

The widower's message was simple.

"I wish for people to have a good time tonight but if they drink, get a designated driver, get someone to take them home, call a cab," Dupuis said.

Rowena, 52, and Karmen, 17, Dupuis were on their way to see "The Nutcracker Suite" in Orange on Dec. 1, 2006 when their car was struck by a drunk driver.

Colin Romero ran a red light at the intersection of FM 366 and Merriman Street striking the Dupuis' vehicle and causing it to spin into traffic and hit a third vehicle. A fourth vehicle that was stopped at the light was also struck during the accident, according to police.

The mother died instantly while the daughter died a short time later.

Romero pleaded guilty to reckless manslaughter and on Oct. 6, 2008, Judge Lane sentenced Romero to two 18 year sentences to run concurrently. As of Dec. 1, 2009, Romero was placed in parole review. He has been in prison for 14 months, Schexnaider said.

Schexnaider hopes the memorials will be a visual reminder of the dangers of drinking and driving.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Another example of Driving While Stupid. All because the driver wanted to answer a cell phone call.

5 Children Die in Fast-Moving Waters
HOUSTON (April 19, 2009) - Police plan to charge a driver who lost control of his car after using his cell phone, sending the vehicle into a rain-swollen ditch and killing five children, a spokesman said Sunday.

Three counts of intoxication manslaughter were being prepared against Chanton Jenkins, 32, Houston police Kese Smith said.

Smith said Jenkins failed a field sobriety test after the accident Saturday, which followed torrential rain storms. The bodies of three boys — ages 4, 7 and 11 — were found inside the vehicle. A search was planned Sunday morning for two girls ages 1 and 3, but morning fog delayed the use of a helicopter, Smith said.

The driver and another adult escaped from the vehicle, along with a 10-year-old girl.

Smith said the adult passenger told police Jenkins was the father of four of the children in the car, including the 10-year-old girl who escaped.

The current was so strong and the conditions so treacherous that it was several hours before authorities could search the sedan. Police said the vehicle was swept 100 feet from the spot where it left the road. The passenger told police rain was falling heavily when Jenkins answered a cell phone. The passenger said Jenkins lost control when he hung up the phone and the car flew down an embankment into the ditch, Smith said.

Which is more important, using a cell phone while driving or your life and the lives of others?

Please drive safely.