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The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award

The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Awards recognize notable achievements in the field of highway safety during the prior calendar year by individuals, coalitions, organizations, nonprofit groups, businesses, government agencies, universities or programs. About Peter K. O'Rourke

2007 Winner: Marshall Jespersen

All 2007 Highway Safety Award Winners

Marshall Jespersen
Marshall Jespersen

Car crashes are the leading cause of death among America's high school students. To combat this national epidemic, the Massachusetts Auto Dealers Charitable Foundation established SkidSchool Advanced Driver Training, providing a unique hands-on course in accident avoidance for emergency situations. SkidSchool teaches true-to-life defensive driving. Expert instructors lead teens through tailgating drills, emergency lane changes, panic stops and the proper use of ABS brakes-all at highway speeds on a safe, closed course.

As a trustee of the Massachusetts Auto Dealers Charitable Foundation, Marshall Jespersen made it his personal mission to expand the program to reach more of the drivers who need it most. With Foundation funding used up, Jespersen devised a plan to ask dealerships to directly sponsor sessions. He persuaded them to make a sizable investment to reach young drivers.

It was a tough sell, particularly in a car market suffering from a downturn. Drawing on his engineering background, Jespersen analyzed earlier sponsorship efforts and fixed their failings, completely overhauling the sponsorship concept. He phoned fellow dealers and made himself available to visit dealerships throughout the state to convince them face-to-face. He pleaded his case in print and at meetings.

The hard work paid off, and once more dealerships signed on, Jespersen set his sights beyond dealerships to partner with community groups and individuals affected by the deaths of teen drivers. In the end, 43 sessions were sponsored in 2006; more than triple the number of sessions from the previous year. The Foundation was able to reach 1,500 students in 2006, an increase of 50 percent over the prior year.

The program receives no public funding. The dealers' foundation, which dedicates the bulk of its budget to running the program, receives its funds primarily from an annual golf tournament and a New England International Auto Show gala preview event. To bolster the program, dealers pay $3,000 to sponsor an individual SkidSchool sessions, which trains 15 to 20 teens, or $5,000 for an entire day (two sessions). Families receive a discount of $75 off the $250 fee. The actual cost of running the program is substantially higher, and the dealers' foundation funds the difference.

In addition to expanding the reach of the SkidSchool training, Jespersen's efforts have helped pass legislation to tighten restrictions on Massachusetts' novice drivers and require parents to spend more time driving with their child in the learner's permit stage. The same law granted the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles with oversight authority over Advanced Driver Training (ADT), which will pave the way for expected automobile insurance discounts for ADT participants.

Ultimately, Jespersen's efforts have enhanced awareness of both the program and the tragic situation that it is designed to address. His contributions have created a workable system that makes the advanced driver training available to those teens learning to drive our roads and to their parents.

For more information, contact Marshall Jespersen at mjespersen@hondanorth.com.