BOSTON >> Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito was joined by law enforcement, highway safety advocates and a trauma surgeon Tuesday in Worcester as she launched the administration's summer roadway safety campaigns focused on teen driving, and distracted or impaired driving.
Gov. Charlie Baker has filmed two public service announcements highlighting the danger that inexperience, distraction, impairment and fatigue can play in teen crashes. The PSAs will air on network affiliates across the state as part of the "100 Deadliest Days" campaign.
With teens out of school and behind the wheel, fatalities in teen driver crashes increase by 43 percent during the roughly 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to the Highway Safety Division. In 2014, 24 drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 died on Massachusetts roads, the administration said.
"Summer should be a season of fun for families across the Commonwealth, but with warmer temperatures come increased risks on the road," Baker said in a statement. "Simple things like designating a sober driver, staying off your mobile phone, and wearing your seatbelt will go a long way toward making it a safer summer for all."
In announcing the campaigns, Polito and other state officials "urged" residents to, among other things, "turn off your phone before you get behind the wheel and pull over if you need to use a hand-held device," according to the administration's press release.
As a state rep from Shrewsbury in 2010, Polito was one of nine House members to vote against the original version of a bill that prohibited texting while driving and the use of any hand-held device by junior operators. A few months later Polito joined all but one of her colleagues voting in favor of the compromise bill that ultimately cleared both branches and was signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick.
The governor's office said Polito was not available Tuesday to speak with the News Service.
Baker in October declined to take a position on bills that would ban the use of hand-held devices by any driver, but noted that "the technology on this stuff has gotten a lot more sophisticated than it was five years ago or so when it was last discussed here."
On Tuesday, Baker spokesman Billy Pitman said Baker "takes seriously all efforts aimed at making our roads safer and will closely review any legislative proposals that reach his desk."
The Senate in January approved a ban on the use of hand-held cell phones and other electronic devices use while driving, and the House late last year gave its initial approval to a similar measure. But House Speaker Robert DeLeo said last month the issue is not in his "top tier" of priorities before the end of this legislative session.
On Tuesday, the Highway Safety Division also announced a campaign to prevent drunk or drugged driving by promoting the use of taxis or other transportation options. The campaign will feature a 15-second online video ad and partnerships with the Boston Red Sox, Brockton Rox, Lowell Spinners and the Cape Cod League.
The campaigns are expected to hit the airwaves ahead of the busy Fourth of July travel weekend.
"The weekend of July 4th is just around the corner, and more motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians will be on the road than at any other time of the year," Polito said in a statement. "We are asking motorists to protect themselves, their loved ones and their fellow citizens this summer by buckling up, properly securing your children, paying attention when you're behind the wheel, and driving sober."
There were 154 people killed in alcohol-related crashes in 2014, an 8 percent increase over the previous year, and drug-related violations have climbed 32 percent between 2011 and 2015, state officials said.
"Our ER and trauma center doctors and nurses see the devastating aftermath of motor vehicle crashes every day, including traumatic brain injuries from not wearing a seat belt or helmet," Dr. Michael Hirsch, a UMass Memorial Medical Center trauma surgeon, said in a statement.
The state's pedestrian and cyclist safety efforts will include grant funding to 71 police departments to increase enforcement of bicycle and pedestrian laws. Pedestrian deaths in Massachusetts were up 26 percent in the first six months of 2015, compared to the same period in 2014, the state said. In January 2016 alone, there were 11 pedestrian deaths.