Highway safety calendar honors friends on a mission

The heartbreaking tragedy of a son lost to a traffic crash 10 years ago brought Phyllis Easteppe and Mary Hunter together as best friends and highway safety advocates. A decade of their efforts to save lives on Idaho highways was recognized last week during a ceremony in the Headquarters auditorium, marking the release of the 2012 Highway Safety Kids Calendar.

Each year ITD’s Office of Highway Safety produces a calendar that features artwork and highway safety tips straight from the colored crayons, markers and pencils of children throughout Idaho. This year’s calendar was dedicated to Easteppe and Hunter in recognition of their ongoing highway safety work.

The two women became acquainted shortly after Easteppe’s son Patrick Smith and one of his friends died in a traffic crash. Learning that her son was not wearing a seat belt, Easteppe went on to found Seatbelt Awareness for Everyone (SAFE) to spread the seat belt message in Idaho schools and the state Legislature.

Hunter said she was “stunned by the pain” in Easteppe’s story shortly after beginning work at OHS in 1999.

“I remember how I felt when my mother died five years earlier in a traffic crash,” said Hunter, who retired as ITD highway safety manager early in 2011.

Since then, the two have worked hard to encourage all Idahoans to always buckle up.

Fourteen entries were chosen for publication in the 2012 calendar from nearly 600 submissions statewide. Student winners were from schools in Rathdrum, Potlatch, Fernwood, Bolvill, Weippe, Glenns Ferry, Burley, Soda Springs, Ammon and Idaho Falls.

The young calendar artists ranged from kindergarten through sixth grade. Safe driving themes were divided among grade levels.

“The student artwork and messages provide each of us lessons about keeping safe on our roadways,” writes Margaret Goertz in the calendar’s introduction. “The calendar spreads a message of traffic safety to schools, law enforcement, state agencies and our communities.”

Calendars are available to the public in limited quantity. For more information, contact Goertz at 334-8104 or by e-mail.

Photos: (Top) Lee White is recognized for his carpentry skills that produce wooden presentation frames for distribution to the young artists whose work is selected for publication. (Middle) Mary Hunter and Phyllis Easteppe have become best friends and highway safety champions since they first met. (Above) Highway Safety Manager Brent Jennings recognized Pauline Davis, ITD graphic designer, for her work on all the Highway Safety Kids Calendars.

Published 12-23-2011