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June 12, 2014
Governor's 2014 Transportation Safety Awards Announced
Groups and Citizens Recognized for Commitment to Saving Lives

RICHMOND House of Delegates Committee on Transportation Chairman Tom Rust presented awards to the winners of the 2014 Governor's Transportation Safety Awards during a ceremony at the Capitol on Thursday, June 12, 2014.

“Our Commonwealth is committed to developing and implementing traffic safety strategies that save lives,” said Delegate Rust. “I was delighted to be a part of honoring the men and women who devote their time to making Virginia’s roads safer every day.”

The following individuals and organizations were honored for their outstanding contributions to transportation safety:

Lifetime Safety Achievement Frank J. Kowaleski has dedicated his career to transportation safety. He developed a number of training programs on occupant protection and child safety seats, contributed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s curriculum of Traffic Occupant Protection Strategies, and helped develop the Saved by the Belt and Bag Program. He has trained officers to identify DUI suspects as well as the field testing in accordance with the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. Because of his expertise in impaired driving and his continued commitment to highway safety, Mr. Kowaleski has been recognized as a subject matter expert and has provided his services on a national scale.

Employer Safety – Soldiers & Airmen Against Drunk Driving, commonly referred to as SAADD, is made up of volunteer military personal who take their own time and resources to ensure the men and women serving our country have a safe ride home. Through this program, an enlisted person can contact volunteers at the SAADD call center to request a designated driver. Technical Sergeant Michael Woodburn accepted the award.

General Traffic Safety – Sgt. Jonathan Smith with the Virginia State Police has gone above and beyond the call of duty demonstrating his tireless commitment to the successful implementation of the Commonwealth’s Strategic Highway Research Program, a nationally-recognized training offered to all emergency responders and personnel who support Traffic Incident Management operations. Sgt. Smith has a remarkable impact on changing the attitudes and behaviors of state and local emergency responders and citizens’ in regard to traffic safety as it relates to Traffic Incident Management.

Impaired Driving – Youth of Virginia Speak Out (YOVASO) is a statewide, peer-to-peer advocacy program that empowers teenagers to work toward the prevention of their number one killer – motor vehicle crashes. YOVASO’s “Steer into the New Year-Drive Responsibly” campaign encouraged teens to celebrate responsibly and drive safely and alcohol-free throughout the Thanksgiving and New Year’s holidays. The award was accepted by Program Administrators Mary King and Sarah Obenauer.

Law Enforcement – During 2013, the Gloucester Sheriff’s Office, led by Sheriff Darrell Warren, saw an increased effort and overall change to the direction of combating traffic fatalities and injuries on the highways of Gloucester County. In his first year as Sheriff, Warren formed a Traffic Safety Unit and placed great emphasis on public information and education. Through numerous radio programs, Facebook messages and other public outreach efforts, Sheriff Warren has been instrumental in leading the efforts to reduce the injuries, crashes and fatalities in Gloucester.

Media – This award went to a partnership between Virginia State Police Trooper William I. Davis and WSET-TV13. Trooper Davis contacted WSET, the ABC affiliate in Roanoke, to see if it would be willing to partner with him to produce a public service announcement (PSA) to heighten awareness of the seriousness of texting-while-driving and the recent change in law. With no funds available to pay for the video shoot or production, he reached out and the station accepted without hesitation. Together Trooper Davis and WSET-TV13 worked together to produce and air the “Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks” PSA. (More)

Motor Carrier Safety – The Virginia State Police Motor Carrier Safety Unit’s team of troopers in North Chesterfield is responsible for making sure trucks and buses meet all safety requirements as they travel through Virginia.  In addition to safety inspections and enforcement activities, this team strives to improve commercial vehicle safety by conducting educational programs for citizen groups and industry stakeholders. These unit members’ accuracy and attention to detail in all aspects of their work has afforded them national recognition from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which awarded them the 2013 Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program Leadership Award for Data Quality.

Motorcycle Safety Wes Hurst of Hillsville is a former Carroll County Supervisor and Founder of the Virginia Bikers Association. For the last seven years, Mr. Hurst has spearheaded a motorcycle awareness program with young drivers in Carroll County. On his own time, Mr. Hurst went into Carroll County High School twice a year and talked to the Drivers Education students about how to safely interact with motorcycles on the highways. (More)

Occupant Protection – The Southeastern Chapter of Virginia SafeKids has provided training all across eastern and central Virginia with focus being on children 14-years-old and under, keeping them free from accidental injuries though community partnerships, advocacy, education and public awareness. One of many results this group achieved was raising funds to provide child safety seats to citizens that otherwise could not afford to replace their current seats, thereby putting children in danger.

Pedestrian/Bicycle – As a Harrisonburg planner, Ms. Tranh Dang has become a leading advocate for improving the city’s bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Ms. Dang has had a role in just about every bike lane, trail, rack or sign that has gone up in the city in recent years. She considers herself  a “facilitator” of biking and walking projects in the city, noting that other public works employees and departments, including Parks and Recreation, are involved. (More)

Public Transportation Yellow Cab of Newport News advocates safe driving practices and is very active in Drive Safe Hampton Roads, proudly displaying the Drive Safe stickers on all 43 taxis. These stickers promote buckling up, driving sober, eliminating driver distractions, and leaving plenty of space for the big trucks on the road. The award was accepted by Operations Manager Pat Ryan. (More)

Pupil Transportation – The Chesterfield County Public Schools Department of Pupil Transportation addresses a number of training needs for school bus drivers. Classes are designed to address specific issues for each driver. The outstanding element of the program is the fact that it has been designed to protect Chesterfield County Public Schools’ investment in school bus drivers. The goal is to identify “at risk” drivers and get them into a program before the driving behavior reaches a level for disciplinary action.

Youth Traffic Safety – The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) anticipated the need for increased education on the dangers of texting-while-driving in response to an updated Virginia law making texting-while-driving a primary offense effective July 1, 2013. The Sheriff’s Office developed “The Dangers of Texting and Driving” program to increase existing youth safety education efforts. The pinnacle of this program was a poster contest. The winning poster was visually compelling and depicted a crashed vehicle, broken cell phone with texting in foreground, and an emergency response vehicle responding in the background. (More)

“We are proud to recognize the outstanding efforts made by individuals and organizations to change the behaviors of Virginia's motorists leading to crash, injury and fatality reduction,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative.

This year’s awards ceremony also included a special achievement award for the family of Darren Morrell. On November 8, 2011, 32-year-old Darren Morrell was killed by an 85-year-old driver in a traffic crash. Darren’s father David and Darren’s brother Bryan were determined to do whatever they could to ensure that no other family faced a similar tragedy.  Their perseverance led to the convening of a broad study of mature drivers, with a DMV-led stakeholder group of over 40 participants from the medical profession, elder care industry, state agencies, state colleges and universities, law enforcement, safety and special interest groups, insurance industry, and concerned citizens. One of the results of the study was legislation that would become “Darren’s Law.” The Morrells fought tirelessly for this legislation, which provides additional safety course options for senior drivers and helps to ensure that all Virginia drivers can meet basic safety standards before they are licensed. The bill was signed into law by Governor McAuliffe in March of this year and will become effective January 1, 2015.

The Governor's Transportation Safety Awards are awarded by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles’ Highway Safety Office. Nominations were accepted by DMV in March. Entries were judged on creativity, imagination, uniqueness, impact on the community, and the use of volunteers and private sector resources. For more information, visit