AAA Northeast held its annual AAA Traffic Safety Awards luncheon in October, recognizing individuals and police departments who have gone and above beyond to bolster traffic safety in Essex, Morris and Union counties.
Honorees included longtime Elizabeth crossing guards Rocco DiGiorgio (20 years), Elizabeth Parra (19 years) and Gladys Cintron (17 years). Each was named a AAA Community Traffic Safety Hero.
The club also commended 44 police departments for having no traffic fatalities in 2016, and 24 departments for having no pedestrian fatalities in 2016.
AAA Northeast also honored three police officers with AAA Traffic Safety Leadership Awards. Here is a bit about each recipient.
• Essex County Sheriff’s officer Michael Kihlberg, retiring early this year, was a devoted traffic safety advocate throughout his 25-year law enforcement career. Five years ago, he created the sheriff department’s first dedicated traffic unit, along with partner George Sona. Kihlberg was also instrumental in bringing traffic-related training to the department, working with multiple agencies to address pedestrian safety in nearby Newark and leading the department’s grant application process, which resulted in regular participation in seat belt, impaired driving and distracted driving enforcement campaigns.
• Sgt. Jesse Novalis, a 10-year veteran of the East Hanover Police Department, is passionate about pedestrian safety. He identified locations where pedestrians were most vulnerable and purchased two permanent blinking pedestrian lights to improve safety with the help of the East Hanover PBA (Patrolman’s Benevolent Association) Civic Association. Another light is planned for 2018. Novalis is a nationally certified accident reconstructionist, and a member of the special vehicle homicide response team for the county prosecutor’s office.
• Lt. Ed Davenport, of the Cranford Police Department, spearheaded a safety project in 2016 to protect pedestrians at a busy intersection with limited visibility. He worked with state officials to bring a pedestrian safety education and enforcement campaign to Cranford, and advocated for a flashing light to increase crosswalk visibility. Davenport also oversaw a strict enforcement period to modify motorist behavior and ensure pedestrians crossed the street correctly.
Read more about how AAA is involved with community efforts here.