SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) today joined with the Illinois Secretary of State, Illinois State Police (ISP) and corporate sponsors to kick off the fifth year of the successful Operation Teen Safe Driving (OTSD) program. Illinois continues to lead the nation in this peer-led safe driving initiative implemented by IDOT’s Division of Traffic Safety.
“The OTSD program is making a dramatic difference in the lives of Illinois teens, as evidenced by the 45 percent reduction in teen fatalities over the past four years,” stated Acting Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider. “Whether the issue is texting, speed, or distracted or impaired driving, the program is successful because teens are directly educating their peers about the hazards of irresponsible driving behavior, and the messages continue to resonate with one another.”
The goal of OTSD is to reduce teen fatalities and injuries through the creativity and initiative of Illinois teens. This partnership enables Illinois high schools to apply for a $2,000 grant to implement a peer-led teen safe driving program within their schools. The schools compete against other schools within their regions for one of five winning spots. The winners receive prize money to use toward their post-prom event, and are invited to participate in the Ford Motor Company Fund’s Driving Skills for Life Ride and Drive event.
This life-saving, innovative grant program is augmented by crucial sponsorships from the Ford Motor Company Fund and The Allstate Foundation and enlists young people to teach safe driving skills to their peers.
“The Ford Motor Company Fund is pleased to enter into our fifth year of commitment to this life-saving teen safe driving program,” said Jim Vella, President of Ford Fund and Community Services, Ford Motor Company. “Vehicle crashes are the number one killer of teens in America, and Operation Teen Safe Driving continues our ongoing commitment to safety.”
“The Allstate Foundation is honored to continue to serve as a leading partner in the combined effort to eliminate distracted driving and save teen lives on Illinois roadways,” said Bill McGrath, Allstate Insurance Regional Sales Leader and father of teen drivers. “With teens heading back to school, it’s the perfect time to remind them and their parents about the safety responsibilities young drivers assume every time they get behind the wheel.”
Applications are now available at www.teensafedrivingillinois.org and are due Oct. 1, 2011 for the 2011-12 school year. Based on the applications submitted, a minimum of 10 schools will be selected from each of the seven regions. The selected schools will receive $2,000 to develop their teen safe driving program. Of the selected schools, five top winners will receive prizes to be used at their post-prom events in amounts from $500 to $2,500. 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. “Since the stronger GDL program took effect in 2008, teen driving deaths have nearly been cut in half. Entering its fifth 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 issues relating to traffic safety in their community (i.e., underage drinking, driving unbuckled, driving impaired, driving distracted). Students are required to provide information explaining how they would combat the traffic safety problem and implement a teen awareness program in their school and community.
"Teen drivers who are educated and informed, develop safe and responsible driving habits as adults - and that is a safety goal OTSD is already achieving," said ISP Col. Robert Haley. “Illinois State Police encourage teen drivers to be vigilant as they continue to learn and develop defensive driving skills that will ultimately save lives," he added.
A total of 105 high schools participated in the program during the 2010-11 school year. Among the innovative ideas proposed by students were: printing the school’s safe driving message on prom/homecoming tickets and bumper stickers, 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,” “Impatience Can Kill You,” “Could You Live Without Me?” “Drive for Tomorrow,” and “Alert Today—Alive Tomorrow.”