SPRINGFIELD - April 23, 2009 – Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) officials are pleased to announce that the Ford Motor Company Fund is bringing its highly successful Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) teen safe driving program, which has been credited with helping to reduce Illinois teen auto fatalities by over 40% since 2007, back to Chicago and Springfield. The program allows students to improve their driving skills by participating in hands-on driving activities under the instruction of trained professionals.
In 2007, the state of Illinois, the Ford Fund and the Governors Highway Safety Association launched one of the nation’s most comprehensive teen safety campaigns – Operation Teen Safe Driving – modeled after the Ford DSFL program. The Operation Teen Safe Driving program gives all Illinois schools the chance to create unique safe driving campaigns for their local communities.
96 schools participated in the 2008 version of the program. Each school was given a $1,000 grant and tasked their students to create innovative and unique teen-led safe driving campaigns aimed at decreasing the number of fatalities and crashes involving teenagers in their communities. The top 20 creative programs, judged by an independent panel, have earned their schools the opportunity to participate in a half-day Ford sponsored Ride and Drive safe-driving clinic, with hands-on vehicle activities.
This year, the Ride and Drive clinics are occurring in Springfield on April 23 and 24. There were also events in Chicago at U.S. Cellular Field April 20 and 21.
“We are greatly pleased to continue our commitment to this important teen safe driving initiative,” said Jim Graham, Manager of Community Relations Ford Fund and Community Services. “Ford Motor Company is deeply committed to the safety of all drivers including teenagers. As evidenced by the lower fatalities in teens in Illinois, we believe this successful program is making a difference on the roads in Illinois and beyond.”
Before the inception of Operation Teen Safe Driving, Illinois was in the midst of an automobile pandemic. Between March 2005 and July 2006, 15 teens lost their lives in auto accidents in Tazewell County alone. In response, Operation Teen Safe Driving, a Ford DSFL program, was launched at the Tazewell County Youth Conference on March 13, 2007. The success of their local program, which saw teen fatalities drop dramatically, inspired state auto safety officials and the Ford Fund to roll out a statewide program.
The results have been encouraging. Teen auto fatalities in Illinois dropped from 57 in Jan. 1 – April 15, 2007 to 22 during the same period of 2008. This year, the trend has continued, with 16 teens (ages 16-19) losing their lives on Illinois roadways from January 1st through March 15, 2009, compared to 20 teens in the same period last year.
"We are so proud of the teens who participated in the Operation Teen Safe Driving program and made such a tremendous effort to teach their peers the importance of safe driving," said Acting IDOT Secretary Gary Hannig. "We are confident this Ford Driving Skills for Life Ride and Drive event will further remind teens of the dangers associated with being behind the wheel and lead to fewer deaths on Illinois roadways."
Ford Motor Company Fund, along with The Office of the Governor, the Illinois Secretary of State, IDOT’s Division of Traffic Safety, the Illinois State Police, the Illinois State Board of Education and The Allstate Foundation all support Operation Teen Safe Driving. Also supporting the Illinois campaign are the Governors Highway Safety Association and SADD (“Students Against Destructive Decisions”).
Selected high schools in central and southern Illinois include: Somonauk, Roanoke-Benson, East Peoria, Deer Creek Mackinaw, Hillside Bethel Christian, Quincy Senior, New Berlin, Cerro Gordo, Griggsville-Perry, Gillespie, Sesser-Valier and Althoff Catholic.
EDITORS NOTE: The Ford Driving Skills for Life program was created in conjunction with the Governors Highway Safety Association in 2003 to provide teens with the skills and experience they need to become safer drivers. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers in the U.S., claiming nearly 5,000 teen lives each year. Each year, the program holds activities and hands-on driving courses across the country. In 2008, the Operation Teen Safe Driving Program was among the finalists for a “PR News Nonprofit PR Award.”
Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services is committed to creating opportunities that promote corporate citizenship, philanthropy, volunteerism and cultural diversity for those who live in the communities where Ford operates. Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2009 and made possible by funding from Ford Motor Company, Ford Motor Company Fund supports initiatives and institutions that foster innovative education, auto-related safety, and American heritage and legacy. National programs include Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies, which provides high school students with academically rigorous 21st century learning experiences, and Ford Driving Skills for Life, a teen-focused auto safety initiative. The Ford Volunteer Corps, established in 2005, continues Ford's legacy of caring worldwide. Through the Volunteer Corps, Ford employees and retirees participate in a wide range of volunteer projects in their communities. For more information on programs made possible by Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services, visit www.community.ford.com.