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The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Award

The Peter K. O'Rourke Special Achievement Awards recognize notable achievements in the field of highway safety during the prior calendar year by individuals, coalitions, organizations, nonprofit groups, businesses, government agencies, universities or programs. About Peter K. O'Rourke

2009 Winner: Illinois Operation Teen Safe Driving Program

All 2009 Highway Safety Award Winners

Illinois Operation Teen Safe Driving Program

While there are many teen driving programs in the United States, none have reached as many teens as the Illinois Operation Teen Safe Driving Program. The program was developed and implemented by the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Traffic Safety (IDOT/DTS) along with the Ford Motor Company Fund’s Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) program and The Allstate Foundation. Illinois, like many states, was struggling with the issue of teen driving. After a successful pilot in 2007 in seven high schools, the program was expanded statewide in 2008 to involve 105 high schools.

All 900 Illinois high schools were invited to apply for the program, and 225 submitted applications. Judging was completed by the program partners. Under the program, students were required to identify issues relating to traffic safety and teen driving in their community. Each of the 105 selected schools received financial assistance from IDOT/DTS and The Allstate Foundation to develop a “peer to peer” program emphasizing safety belt use, distracted driving, impaired driving and speeding.

At the conclusion of the program, the top schools in each region received funding for post-prom activities. Additionally, students from the winning schools participated in one of three geographically dispersed Ford DSFL ride and drives. At these events, professional drivers teach teens key driving skills behind the wheel.

No other state has attempted a program of this magnitude, with 105 high schools conducting simultaneous student-led programs to improve teen driver safety. Up to 100 state employees were involved in the program during its peak times. A variety of state agencies, law enforcement agencies and public and private sector organizations also participate, as well as Ford dealers and Allstate agents.

Taxpayer dollars were wisely used in implementing this program. For every $1 of public funding, there was $5 in private sector funding. The scope of this effort is tremendous – the state reports the program has reached more than 99,000 students.

The Illinois Operation Teen Safe Driving Program clearly has had an impact. Teen fatalities decreased from 155 in 2007 to 93 in 2008. The state credits a newly enacted GDL law along with Operation Teen Safe Driving for being responsible for so many fewer teens needlessly dying in traffic crashes. This program is now the gold standard for developing a public/private teen driver safety partnership.

For more information about the Operation Teen Safe Driving Program, contact Mike Stout, of the Illinois Department of Transportation, at 217-558-0568 or Michael.Stout@illinois.gov.