Thirteen people named Traffic Safety Champions

Thirteen people were recognized for excellence in safety education at the Oswego County Traffic Safety award ceremony. Pictured in front from left are Chris Sharkey, Robin France, Jim Middleton and service dog Winston, Officer Kelly Thompson and Trooper Charlotte Yerdon. In back are Brad Beers, Bruce LePorte, Trooper Ivan Chinikailo, John FitzGibbons, Officer Michael Baker, Officer Lucas Hollenbeck and Coordinator Billie Crandall Brady. Absent from photo was Trooper Peter Lazarek.

by Nicole Reitz

A record number of 13 people were honored as Traffic Safety Champions by the Oswego County Traffic Safety Board last week. A luncheon was held in Oswego to recognize police officers, educators, bus drivers and motorcyclists for making Oswego County’s streets safer for both motorists and pedestrians.

The first to be nominated was Jim Middleton, an alum of the Phoenix Central School District. Middleton participated in last year’s Safety Expo held at Phoenix School District Transportation Center, where he took part in demonstrations for bus wheelchair safety.

He’s also taken an interest in boating safety and copies of an article that he wrote for the Coast Guard Auxiliary were on the tables for attendees to read.

Mike Goessl, head bus driver at Sandy Creek Central Schools, was nominated by Robin Cashel. Goessl, described as a “beloved instructor,” is in charge of training all of the new and seasoned drivers in the district.

In her nomination, Cashel described Goessl as a patient and thorough trainer. Not one of Goessl’s students have ever failed their CDL license.

John FitzGibbons was nominated by Greg Mills for his idea for the walking public in the City of Oswego. “The idea was that you should not have to be a marathon runner to get through our downtown safely,” said aid Billie Crandall Brady, Oswego County traffic safety education coordinator.

FitzGibbons did his own grass-roots study with the help of the Oswego Network of Entrepreneurs group to make downtown Oswego more pedestrian friendly. After gathering information, FitzGibbons contacted the Department of Transportation and arranged a meeting with downtown business owners and opened it up to the public.

“DOT showed up in greater numbers than I’ve ever seen altogether. Not only did the DOT take it seriously that we have issues that they needed to address, they did it right away,” said Crandall Brady.

Once FitzGibbons identified the problems, the DOT responded by lengthening crosswalks, cutting back trees from some of the intersections for better visibility, and eliminating right on red at West 1st Street and Bridge Street.

The changes were made to make the city more walkable and to further protect walkers by fixing timing on the crosswalks. “The infrastructure people move through right now is significantly better than it was six months ago,” said FitzGibbons.

Robin France from Oswego County Opportunities Head Start was nominated for her work at Discover Day Care in Phoenix. She has dedicated more than 10 years to teaching traffic safety to three and four year old children in the classroom.

Every year, with a new class of pre-schoolers, France makes sure that children know to listen for the click of their car seat. Preschoolers learn life lessons in traffic safety and also learn the importance of their parents buckling up before driving. Puppets that sing safety songs and Buckle Bear, operated by Diane Oldenburg from the Oswego County Health Department, are often classroom visitors.

Troopers Charlotte Yerdon, Ivan Chinikailo and Peter Lazarek were honored for keeping the population safe in Oswego County.  “Law Enforcement in our communities also participate in traffic safety education although people might not think of them as educators,” said Crandall Brady. “Their way of educating is a little different. It’s not always our favorite thing; but, because they are out there every day doing their job, they are the ones that are keeping the rest of us safe.”

Yerdon was nominated by Sgt. Robert Simpson from the Pulaski Barracks. To date, Yerdon has issued 291 tickets for vehicle and traffic law violations and is one of the leaders in driving while intoxicated arrests. She has made several drug arrests that have come from traffic stops and actively participates in seat0belt enforcement efforts.

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