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Ford Driving Skills for Life Enters Fifth Year as Illinois Teen Driving Deaths Drop by 48 Percent Since 2007

CHICAGO, April 23, 2012 -- As the culmination of one of the nation’s most comprehensive teen safe driving programs, students from high schools across Illinois will put their driving skills to the test with professional drivers this week. In its fifth year, Operation Teen Safe Driving has helped to reduce teen auto fatalities in Illinois by 48 percent since it began.

This innovative campaign is modeled after the Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) program and gives all Illinois high schools the chance to create unique safe driving campaigns for their local communities.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for persons ages 15 to 20. Teen drivers – mile to mile – are in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers; nearly 3,000 teens die annually in traffic crashes. The under-20 age group had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes.

To combat these preventable tragedies, Ford DSFL provides tools for teen drivers through school programs, online training and hands-on events in Illinois and across the country. Professional driving instructors, many with international and racing experience, will provide teams of students from winning schools with hands-on training experience in four key areas: distracted driving and hazard recognition, vehicle handling, space management and speed control. The Illinois Ride and Drive clinics will take place in Chicago today and tomorrow at U.S. Cellular Field and in Springfield April 26-27 at the Abraham Lincoln Airport facility.

More than 2,000 high school students from across the state have participated in this program. During the current school year, 105 Illinois high schools were given a $1,000 grant for innovative teen-led safe driving campaigns aimed at decreasing the number of fatalities and crashes involving teenagers in their communities. The top 35 creative programs, judged by an independent panel earlier this month, earned select students from each school the opportunity to participate in a half-day Ford-sponsored safe-driving clinic. The top five winning schools in each of the seven regions also will receive prizes ranging from $500 to $2,500 to host a post-prom event.

“We are excited to bring our award-winning teen safe driving hands-on programs back to Chicago and Springfield. It is a great opportunity for teens to work directly with some of the best drivers in the world,” said Jim Graham, manager, Ford Driving Skills for Life. “The winning schools have played a key role in the broader statewide effort that Ford, IDOT and Allstate have successfully implemented over the past five years. Teen fatalities are down significantly, and we are proud to play a key role in that reduction along with our partners.”

In 2007, Ford Motor Company Fund, along with The Office of the Governor, Illinois Secretary of State, IDOT’s Division of Traffic Safety, Illinois State Police, Illinois State Board of Education, Allstate Foundation and the Governors Highway Safety Association launched one of the nation’s most comprehensive teen safety campaigns. The program began after a rash of traffic fatalities involving teen drivers. Between March 2005 and July 2006, 15 teens lost their lives in auto accidents in Tazewell County alone. Operation Teen Safe Driving, a Ford DSFL program, was launched at the Tazewell County Youth Conference in 2007. The success of that local program, which saw teen fatalities drop dramatically, inspired state auto safety officials and Ford Motor Company Fund to roll out a statewide program.

The results have been encouraging. Teen auto fatalities in Illinois dropped from 57 from Jan. 1 through April 15, 2007 – before the launch of the program – to 16 during the same period in 2009.

“IDOT and partners are working diligently to address teen driving issues through effective education and application, and by creating a positive environment where young motorists and professional drivers can collaborate in a meaningful, hands-on training experience,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider. “Ford Driving Skills for Life Ride and Drive events appropriately reward students for their creativity and dedication, while supplying them with new tools to improve their driving skills.”

Another important teen driving initiative includes the Graduated Driver Licensing law introduced by Secretary of State Jesse White. The law, made effective Jan. 1, 2008, gives teens additional behind-the-wheel driving experience under the watchful eye of a parent or guardian, limits in-car distractions, and requires teens to earn their way from one stage to the next by avoiding traffic convictions. Leading national traffic safety experts have recognized the law as one of the best in the nation.

“When I established the Teen Driver Safety Task Force the goal was to improve Illinois’ Graduated Driver Licensing law and, even more importantly, to save lives,” said Secretary of State White. “I am encouraged that teen driving deaths are down by nearly 50 percent since the law took effect Jan. 1, 2008. This law, in conjunction with the Operation Teen Safe Driving initiative, is having the intended impact on teen driving safety. My congratulations to the winners as well as to all schools that participated in this important program. Working together, we can save more lives and make Illinois roads safer for all of us.”

“The men and women of the Illinois State Police remain steadfast in their commitment to reducing teen fatalities,” said ISP Director Hiram Grau. “Operation Teen Safe Driving provides an additional opportunity for our Safety Education Officers to reach young drivers and educate them about establishing good driving habits. We congratulate these young men and women for their winning efforts to encourage others to be safe drivers.”

Developed with the Governors Highway Safety Association, Ford Driving Skills for Life is recognized as the nation’s most comprehensive driving skills program, with free professional driver instruction, state grants, free materials for parents and educators, and a Web-based curriculum that includes “The Academy” on www.drivingskillsforlife.com. Ford DSFL has trained more than 600,000 new drivers through free online and professional hands-on driver instruction.

The winning schools in each region are:

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About Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services
Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services works with community partners to advance driving safety, education and community life. For more than 60 years, Ford Motor Company Fund has operated with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Company. The award-winning Ford Driving Skills for Life program teaches new drivers through a variety of hands-on and interactive methods. Innovation in education is encouraged through national programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants. Through the Ford Volunteer Corps, more than 25,000 Ford employees and dealers work on projects each year that better their communities in more than 40 countries. For more information, visit www.community.ford.com.

About the Governors Highway Safety Association
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)® is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit www.ghsa.org. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GHSAhq or follow us on Twitter at @GHSAHQ.

Contact: Jim Graham
For Driving Skills for Life
Ford Motor Company Fund
313.322.9030
jgraham1@ford.com
Judd Templin
Direct Impact
614.560.3399
Jtempli4@ford.com