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Speeches and Presentations

Lifesavers Public Service Awards Remarks

NHTSA Deputy Administrator Sophie Shulman

Monday, April 08, 2024 |

Denver, CO

Thanks so much. And Barbara Rooney, it’s so good to see you again, and thank you to the Governors Highway Safety Association for your continued support of Lifesavers. I also want to recognize the Lifesavers Planning Committee, without whom this event would not be possible.

I hope everyone’s enjoyed their time at Lifesavers and in Denver so far. In fact, I used to live in Denver and worked at the Colorado Department of Transportation. So, this is a little bit of a homecoming for me, and I’m glad to be back! One of my favorite parts of Colorado is making my way up to the mountains, so I hope you’ll have time for a hike while you’re here – but I’d recommend you take the Bustang and avoid sitting in I-70 traffic!

The Lifesavers Conference is all about making a difference, whether that’s at the local, county, state, tribal or national level. The lessons and best practices you learn here can empower you in your day-to-day work. Safety is cumulative, and small improvements can add up to meaningful, lifesaving change. We collectively feel a tremendous responsibility to serve our communities, and I know you come to work every day determined to make a difference. Public service truly is a calling, and it’s a noble one. There’s a reason we see many of the same faces here at Lifesavers, year after year, and that’s because of your exceptional commitment to our shared safety mission.  

Today is an opportunity for reflection and celebration. In just a few minutes, we will honor six individuals and five organizations for their tremendous efforts to make our roads safer for everyone.

Their stories and achievements serve as guideposts for all of us. Their work addresses some of the most challenging traffic safety issues, advances solutions, and promotes the safe system approach. Some of our honorees focus on vulnerable road users, who deserve to be able to walk, roll and bike safely. A safe system is one that works for everyone and is designed to prevent mistakes from becoming fatal. Many of our award winners are prioritizing the safety of children inside and outside vehicles. Their efforts promote the safety of teen drivers and the correct installation of child restraint systems, helping to protect some of our very youngest passengers. I have an 18 month old at home, and I think about keeping him safe every time I put him in his car seat.

We are also recognizing those who have made exceptional strides in reducing risky driving behaviors. Risky drivers are a danger not only to themselves, but to everyone on our roads. Our honorees are advancing safety by promoting seat belt use and preventing impaired driving. If we could just get everyone to buckle up, put the phones down, drive sober, and slow down, we could save so many lives every year.

Speaking of putting the phones down, today is the final day of NHTSA’s distracted driving prevention campaign. We unveiled a new slogan this year – Put the Phone Away or Pay. Our old tagline, U Drive. U Text. U Pay., served us well for nearly a decade, but this much-needed refresh will ensure our campaign continues to reach the target audiences with vital, relevant messaging.

Thank you to everyone who supported our campaign this year, amplifying it in your communities and spreading the word on social media.

Of course, this work doesn’t end today – we need to be vigilant about risky driving behaviors all year round. And we can’t do it without you. Partners are vital in so many traffic safety projects, and non-traditional partners can help us reach even more people where they are.

During today’s awards, we will be honoring an auto repair company for their efforts to ensure the safety of their customers’ children in vehicles. Non-traditional partners can be a great way to spread the word, and I encourage you to look far and wide to see who else you can bring to the table. After all, that’s what it’s all about – saving lives. No one organization, agency, city or state can do it alone. We are stronger together, and the more people we have working together, the more lives we can save.

As you hear the presentation of each award, I encourage you to consider how you can build on this great work in your communities. Be inspired by their achievements – perhaps you can replicate their programs or adopt something similar. We can all learn from each other as we strive to address the traffic safety crisis and work toward the day when we reach zero deaths. We have a lot of work ahead, and I thank you for everything you do, day in and day out, to make a meaningful difference in your communities.  

Today’s honorees represent the best of our traffic safety community. I offer them my most heartfelt congratulations and appreciation, and I know you do as well.

With that, I’d like to turn it back over to Diana to present our NHTSA Public Service Awards.


Let's give another round of applause to all of our winners. We also extend our sympathies to the family of Bala Akundi.

As the Baltimore Metropolitan Council posted when announcing his passing, “His positivity, compassion, and commitment to our region brought joy to our office every single day.” I hope you will find some comfort in knowing that his memory and work will live on.

It's been my privilege to join you to celebrate the achievements of some outstanding members of our traffic safety community. They’re shining examples of the differences we can make in our communities and the lives we can save, thanks to innovation, dedication and perseverance. We’re inspired by their accomplishments and their dedication to our shared safety mission. Again, congratulations, and I wish you all a wonderful rest of your time in Denver and safe travels home.

Thank you.