April 1 marks the beginning of Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
DETROIT – Kiefer Foundation Chairman Steve Kiefer announced his retirement from General Motors to focus on his mission to end distracted driving. Today marks not only the beginning of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, but also Steve’s first day leading the Kiefer Foundation full-time.
“I’ve dedicated my working life thus far to the automotive industry, now I intend to focus on my passion – saving lives on the road,” said Kiefer. “This is not a passion I chose, but one that was thrust upon me by the loss of my son, Mitchel. Mitchel’s death in a distracted driving crash changed my life forever, and I want to work towards a future where no parent has to bury a child as a result of a preventable car crash.”
The Kiefer Foundation was established in memory of Steve’s son, Mitchel Kiefer, who was killed by a distracted driver on September 19, 2016. The Kiefer Foundation has three pillars to support its mission: awareness, public policy and technology. Kiefer plans to tackle each area globally, including his home state of Michigan: advocating for the Michigan Senate to pass the pending three-bill package (HBs 4277, 4278, 4279) to increase penalties and encourage utilization of hands-free technology.
“We have launched the national #JustDrive campaign, with the goal to have laws in every state and internationally to ban driving while holding a mobile device,” said Kiefer. “My sole focus is to save lives, in Mitchel’s honor.”
The Kiefer Foundation Chairman Steve Kiefer has been appointed to the Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Commission (GTSAC) by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The purpose of the GTSAC is to provide leadership in the identification of state and local traffic safety issues and promote recommended strategies to address them.
“It means a great deal to be personally appointed to the GTSAC by Governor Whitmer,” said Kiefer. “From our very first meeting, she has embraced our family and our mission to end distracted driving and increase safety on our Michigan roads.”
“I really hope that you guys can all find it in your hearts to help us make the roads safer and really save lives around Michigan and around the country,” said Blake Kiefer.
The Kiefer Foundation supports hands free legislation, which will ultimately ban the use of all hand held devices while driving. Similar laws have been adopted in 18 states, and have significantly reduced crashes and fatalities.
The Kiefer Foundation is directing all Michigan supporters to send a letter to their representative via handsfreemichigan.org.
Mitchel Kiefer should have turned 21 on March 27, 2019, but the Michigan State freshman never made it to his 19th birthday.
Mitchel was rear-ended by a distracted driver on Sept. 19, 2016, forcing him into oncoming traffic on I-96. His vehicle was hit by a truck and Mitchel was killed instantly.
So, instead of celebrating Mitchel’s 21st birthday with him, Mitchel’s family facilitated a press conference with the Detroit Police Department to introduce a new legislation to end distracted driving in the State of Michigan.
“Today this is where we celebrate Mitchel’s 21st birthday,” said Steve Kiefer, Chairman of The Kiefer Foundation as he displayed a picture of Mitchel’s gravesite.
“It doesn’t get any easier. It’s the hardest thing that a parent can ever go through. It was an event that it turns out is defining our lives and we decided as a family to try to do something in Mitchel’s memory to basically change the world.”
Played at the press conference was a video clip of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State address in which she articulated her support of a hands free legislation in the State of Michigan.
While 47 states currently have no-texting laws in place, they are virtually unenforceable. What has been proven to change driver behavior is hands free laws.
“(Sixteen) states actually have hands free laws on books,” said Kiefer. “In these 16 states, the number of crashes, the number of fatalities, and the number of cell phone-related crashes are down significantly. This is really common sense. We need to have hands free laws here in the state of Michigan.”
The Detroit Police Department is in full support of a hands free law, recognizing the devastating effects of distracted driving. Detroit Police Chief James Craig cited multiple examples at Wednesday’s press conference.
“On Wednesday March 13th of this year, around 7:45 in the evening, a distracted driver who was texting on his phone struck a 77-year-old female pedestrian crossing McNichols near Hope Drive,” said Craig.
“When the officers arrived they found the driver, a 22-year-old man, near the rear of his vehicle in a state of panic. And all he could say was, ‘I just killed someone.’ Later, the women did in fact succumb to her injuries.”
Unfortunately, those scenarios are playing out more and more as drivers are using their phones behind the wheel.
“We’re looking at another awkward trend this year for distracted driving where over 70 people died and over 7,000 were injured in more than 19,000 distracted driving crashes,” said Lieutenant Mike Shaw.
“We’ve made it very clear to the troopers on the road that distracted driving has to stop – it’s an epidemic.”
The Kiefer Foundation wants to stop that epidemic, launching a nonprofit, grassroots movement to put a hands free law in place by July of 2019. The initial goal of that campaign is to get 100,000 letters supporting hands free legislation within the month of April.
“The month of April is National Distracted Driver Awareness Month,” said Kiefer. “We’re hoping in this month of April to get 100,000 letters to your representatives showing support for a bipartisan bill that will end distracted driving through hands free legislation.”
To learn more about the Hands Free Michigan movement and to submit a letter, visit handsfreemichigan.org.
On August 28, 2017, The Kiefer Foundation along with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) announced a partnership to improve safety on Michigan highways using protective cable median barrier. The partnership between MDOT and the Kiefer Foundation adds 1.7 miles of protective cable median barrier on I-96 from Doan Creek to east of Dietz Road in Ingham County.
On August 14, 2017 The Kiefer Foundation hosted the first annual “Swing for Safe Driving” Ball Golf Tournament in honor of Mitchel Kiefer. 140 golfers attended the inaugural event held at the Walnut Creek Country Club in South Lyon and were treated to a beautiful day of golf and camaraderie. This year’s event raised an astounding $618K and more importantly brought additional attention to the dangers of distracted driving.
Mitchel Kiefer was awarded a honorary Bachelor of Science Degree in Neuroscience yesterday in East Lansing, Michigan. The honorary degree was presented to Mitchel’s family by Michigan State University President Lou Ann Simon. It was an amazing day for the Kiefer family and an outstanding accomplishment for Mitchel.