The Soldotna Police Department is preparing to launch a major, year-long public education campaign aimed at significantly reducing the number of road accidents, especially those that result in injuries and fatalities.
The "Arrive Alive" campaign is funded with an $85,571 grant from the Alaska Highway Safety Office, a part of the state Department of Transportation.
Newspaper and radio ads will emphasize to motorists to practice safe driving guidelines most of us already know -- don't drink and drive, don't text message while driving, keep speeds low, wear seatbelts and drive defensively.
The effort comes on the heels of a rash of highway collisions occurring in the Kenai-Soldotna area in just the past two weeks. On Nov. 2, 14-year-old Rylene Oskolkoff died a crash on the Kenai Spur Highway. Just four days later, Wasilla couple Paul and Pamela Trissell died when a semi-truck crossed the center line of the Spur in Nikiski.
But the public awareness campaign was in the works long before this season's fatal collisions. Soldotna police applied for the grant June 1. The department cited the Sterling Highway as a major reason for the need for a public education effort. Between 1977 and 2009, that stretch of road has seen 30 fatal vehicle accidents -- and 35 deaths -- between the Kenai Spur intersection and the Sterling scale house.
"Soldotna seemed to be a natural to step in the do something," said police Chief John Lucking. "You're either coming from, going to and going through here. It just seemed appropriate that we grab the horns and do something."
The grant funding comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. State highway safety office grant administrator Cindy Cashen said the Soldotna department will gauge its success by a number of factors, including a stabilization or reduction in the number of accidents and the number of contacts made by police with the driving public.
The grant doesn't mean more cops on the road, however.
"We just want folks to see and hear the ads and drive safely," Lucking said. "I especially want to reach the young drivers and ask that they take it easy."
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