Communities support teen safe driving program

An annual program that teaches your teenagers and their friends safe driving nearly didn’t happen this year, but communities and businesses rallied together to save the program that saves lives.

Teens driving golf carts with "drunk goggles" on may look not like they’re learning, but Carterville, Illinois, freshman Will Pearce says it’s teaching him a lot.

"It was really weird, because you couldn’t see anything. There were two of everything. You couldn’t hear the tires going over the cones," said Pearce.

Hundreds of kids from 28 high schools learned how to watch for motorcycles and what you can and can’t see from inside a semi. They can even simulate a 5 mile per hour crash, so you know exactly what the impact feels like.

Brian Murrah with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department says they’re seeing a drop in teen driving crashes since they started Traffic Safety Days eight years ago. "But you also know in the back of your head you’re not having to go with the coroner to knock on doors as much, and that’s exactly why we’re doing it," said Murrah.

Yearly funding for the program is locked up by the Illinois budget impasse, which nearly canceled the program, but Murrah says communities and businesses jumped at the chance to help step in and save the program.

"I was surprised how quickly places jumped in," Murrah said.

Carterville freshman Tora Stallings says the activities are changing the way she thinks about driving. "Now you know what other people, not just you, see when driving," said Stallings. She says now, she and her friends will drive safer when they hit the road.

Traffic Safety Days started as a small school outreach program for students in Williamson County. Since then, it’s grown to serve nearly 1,500 students in 28 high schools around southern Illinois.

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