The Westerly Sun

STONINGTON - Petulia Pugliares recalled having a few near misses with cars as she walked down her road in Wethersfield, Conn. She also grew tired of witnessing accidents at the fourway stop by her home.

"A lot of people viewed the stop signs as stop optional," she said. So Pugliares decided to do something about it. After doing some research, and learning that auto accidents are the number one killer of U.S. children under the age of 14, she made up lawn signs with a message: " Drive like your kids live here ." The message apparently had an effect on the neighborhood drivers. "I've noticed a big difference. There are a lot less accidents on my corner," she said.

In the year since she put up her first sign, her message has spread to almost every state in the union, as well as Canada. And beginning next week, it will spread to Stonington.

"It's a program to bring awareness to speeding and distracted driving, primarily in residential areas where there are children," said First Selectman Edward Haberek Jr.

After learning about the program and speaking with Pugliares, Haberek decided to buy the municipal street signs that she offers. The Board of Police Commissioners has approved the initiative.

The plan is to mount the signs in strategic areas to remind people to slow down. There will be 25 of the reflective metal signs, Haberek said, which are white with red lettering. They will be placed on the same posts as speedlimit signs. There will also be magnets with the same message to place on town vehicles. To determine the best places to mount the signs, Haberek has formed a task force including police Chief J. Darren Stewart and Public Works Director Joe Bragaw. Haberek, who will also serve on the task force, is encouraging residents to contact his office with any suggestions on where to place signs. Streets where a lot of children reside and where a lot of people cross, are the priorities, he said.

"We'll try to strategically put them in areas where they'll have the most use," he said.

Haberek said he learned about the program after a few Stonington residents posted " Drive like your kids live here " signs on their lawns. Available on the Pugliares' website, the lawn signs are available for $10.

The new and unique signs will catch drivers' attention, Haberek said, more so than the faded yellow caution signs that drivers might ignore after looking at them for years. "It's another way of being able to provide awareness," he said.

The $50 signs will cost a total of $1,250, and Haberek said the money will come from the Department of Public Works sign budget. The car magnets are being donated by Pugliares.

"It's pretty exciting that they're making a difference," Pugliares said about the signs. "Community involvement is what makes this program work."

Visit drivelikeyourkidslivehere. com for more information or to purchase a sign.

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