48 percent drop in teen car deaths attributed to Operation Teen Safe Driving program

A statewide program, led by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), is being credited with a 48-percent decline in teen fatalities during the past five years.

IDOT officials and representatives from representatives from the Ford Motor Company Fund, The Allstate Foundation, the Illinois Secretary of State and Illinois state police kicked off the statewide Operation Teen Safe Driving (OTSD) program at the Illinois State Fair.

The program, in its sixth year, is the first of its kind nationwide, according to IDOT.

“OTSD has proven to be a unique and impactful public-private partnership that utilizes the creativity of Illinois students to further boost traffic safety in schools and communities across the state,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider said in a press release. “The overwhelming value of peer-to-peer influence and innovation drives the program to accomplish continual success, and we encourage all interested high schools to participate this year as well.”

Applications for the program are available at www.teensafedrivingillinois.org and are due Oct. 1, 2012 for the 2012-13 school year. Based on the applications submitted, a minimum of 10 schools will be selected from each of the seven regions. Those selected schools will then receive $2,000 to develop their teen safe driving program. From each of the seven regions, five top winners will receive prizes to be used at their post-prom events in amounts from $500 to $2,500. In addition to the monetary prizes, each of the winning schools will be invited to attend one of the Ford Motor Company Fund’s Driving Skills for Life Ride and Drive events.

“I am pleased and encouraged that the number of teen crash fatalities has dropped significantly since my Teen Driver Safety Task Force issued recommendations that led to the strengthening of Illinois’ graduated driver licensing (GDL) program,” said Secretary of State Jesse White in a press release. “Since the stronger GDL program took effect in 2008, teen driving deaths have nearly been cut in half. Entering its sixth year, the Operation Teen Safe Driving program will continue to draw even more attention to the issue of teen driving safety by utilizing the creativity of teens to develop effective safe driving messages for their peers.”

The selection process requires students to identify significant traffic safety issues within their community (i.e., underage drinking, driving unbuckled, driving impaired, driving distracted). The participating will provide information explaining how they would combat the problem and implement a teen awareness program in the school and community.

“Illinois State Police applaud teens who practice and promote safe driving habits,” said Illinois State Police Commander Jay Keeven. “Operation Teen Safe Driving’s peer to peer learning experience encourages teens to think about driving safely and ultimately prepares them to be responsible adult drivers,” added Keeven.

A total of 105 high schools participated in the 2012-13 program. Examples of innovative ideas proposed by students in previous years were: branding the school’s safe driving message on prom/homecoming tickets, bumper stickers, etc.; arranging school assemblies with victim impact speakers, fatal goggle simulations, crash re-enactments, asking local businesses to display safe driving messages on their marquees; and setting up permanent traffic signs throughout the community. Students also came up with slogans such as: “Don’t Drive InTEXTicated,” “Don’t Be Lazy – Click It Like Crazy,” “Think What’s NXT B4 U TXT,” “Risk Takers are Accident Makers,” and “Distracted Driving is Unattractive Driving.”