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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 20, 2010
 


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Josh Kauffman (IDOT) 217/558.0517
Scott Compton (ISP) 217/782.6637

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Joins Illinois DOT officials to Kick Off the 4th Year of Operation Teen Safe Driving Program

Secretary LaHood Sends Strong Message Against Distracted Driving


SPRINGFIELD - U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today joined Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig, Illinois State Police Acting Director Jonathon Monken and corporate sponsors to kick off the fourth year of Operation Teen Safe Driving. The groundbreaking effort was designed to reduce teen motor vehicle crashes and save lives on Illinois’ roadways.

Secretary LaHood is in Illinois promoting his message of the dangers of driving while distracted. While in Springfield, he praised the efforts of the students, schools, communities and organizations including Operation Teen Safe Driving (OTSD), the only program of its type in the nation.

“In 2008, teens formed the largest proportion of distracted drivers in fatal crashes,” said Secretary LaHood. “Texting and talking on cell phones may feel like second nature to a tech-savvy generation, but the truth is, no one can talk or text while driving safely. I commend these young leaders and Operation Teen Safe Driving for helping to keep teens drivers safe.”

Operation Teen Safe Driving is a statewide initiative spearheaded by the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Traffic Safety. The program is augmented by crucial sponsorship from the Ford Motor Company Fund and enlists young people to pass along safe driving skills to their peers. From 2007 to 2009, according to the Illinois State Police, there was a reduction of over 50 percent in teen motor vehicle fatalities in Illinois. Illinois’ OTSD program has reached close to a quarter of a million students since its inception three years ago.

“We are proud to launch the fourth year of the Operation Teen Safe Driving Program with the nation’s most prominent traffic safety advocate, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig. “The Operation Teen Safe Driving (OTSD) Program has produced exemplary results across the state as it has helped cut teen fatalities by nearly half since 2006. IDOT is committed to teen safe driving and looks forward to a continued positive impact by this program.”

“I am pleased and encouraged that the number of teen crash fatalities continues to drop 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 dropped by over 50 percent. Entering its fourth 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.”

Operation Teen Safe Driving was modeled on the nationally recognized Ford Motor Company Fund’s Driving Skills for Life high school-based pilot project implemented in 2006 by the Ford Motor Company Fund. This effort halted an epidemic of 15 teen fatalities that occurred in Tazewell County in 2005 and 2006.

“The Ford Motor Company Fund is pleased to enter into our fourth 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.”

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. For over 60 years, the Ford Motor Company Fund has supported 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 Motor Company Fund’s Driving Skills for Life, a teen-focused auto safety initiative.

Other state agencies involved in Operation Teen Safe Driving include the Office of the Governor, Illinois Secretary of State and the Illinois State Police. Also backing the Illinois campaign are national traffic safety groups, including the Governors Highway Safety Association.

"The Illinois State Police is proud to continue our commitment in this successful program. Operation Teen Safe Driving dissects the driving experience, laying the foundation for responsible driving habits," said ISP Acting Director Jonathon Monken. “Our combined efforts have yielded positive results over the past four years and fewer teens are losing their lives behind the wheel."

All Illinois public and private high schools are invited to apply. Students are encouraged to identify the major teen traffic safety problems in their communities and to propose creative solutions to those problems. High schools that come up with the most creative solutions will be invited to participate in the Ford Motor Company Fund’s Driving Skills for Life “Ride and Drive” safe-driving clinics at the end of the school year. These “Ride and Drive” events feature professional drivers giving young drivers rigorous behind the wheel driving exercises, including: hazard recognition/accident avoidance, vehicle handling/skid control and speed/space management.

For more information about Operation Teen Safe Driving and to access online applications to participate in the effort, go to www.teensafedrivingillinois.org.

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