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Late Winter 2008 | Vol. 10 | No. 4
Saving Teen Lives in Illinois
By: Mike Stout
Governor's Highway Safety Representative
State of Illinois
Illinois is determined to save teen lives! In the spring of 2007, Operation Teen Safe Driving was launched in rural Tazewell County after authorities were alarmed that automobile crashes took 15 teen lives in 15 consecutive months in this rural Illinois county. The program implemented the highly successful Driving Skills for Life program. Since Operation Teen Safe Driving was implemented, there has been a dramatic decline in teen fatalities.
After the success in rural Tazewell County, Ford Motor Company Fund and GHSA agreed to team up, once again, with the Illinois Department of Transportation's (IDOT) Division of Traffic Safety (DTS), to take this lifesaving program statewide in 2008. Our mission was to provide the initiative and resources required to challenge the creativity of Illinois teens to develop and implement community-based programs to reduce fatalities and injuries due to traffic crashes among their peers.
After many planning meetings and with the groundwork in place, IDOT scheduled a fly-around to six locations across the state in November 2007. Helping announce this "first of its kind in the nation" program were Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, Secretary of State (SOS) Jesse White, Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Milton Sees, Illinois State Police (ISP) Director Larry Trent, Illinois Liquor Control Commission Acting Director Lainie Krozel, as well as many other school and community agency representatives.
Financial assistance is a key component to the success of this program, as it provides the incentive to challenge students and their communities to participate. With the partnership of Ford Motor Company Fund, the Allstate Foundation and IDOT resources, applications were mailed to over 800 Illinois high schools. We were elated when 225 high schools from across the state applied and agreed to accept the challenge.
In January 2008, 105 high schools were selected, 15 from each of the seven statewide regions, by a panel of judges represented by our partners, regional coordinators, as well as IDOT, SOS, ISP and other agency staff. The selection process was quite involved, requiring students to identify issues threatening the traffic safety of their community (i.e., underage drinking, driving unbuckled, driving impaired, driving distracted). Students were then required to provide detailed information explaining how they would combat the traffic safety problem and implement a teen awareness program in their school and community.
Each selected school was provided a “start-up toolkit” which included strategic items and tips to help develop a media plan to positively impact teen drivers. In addition, selected schools received seed money to begin the process as well as guidelines for cost accountability for the money.
Winning schools will have the opportunity to send their students to one of three Driving Skills for Life hands-on driving events scheduled throughout the state in May.
Selected schools were notified on January 21, and the work (fun) began. We look forward to the innovative programs these teens will create as they improve driving skills, not only in their peer groups, but also throughout their entire community.
Stay tuned–we will keep you posted on the progress!