3/4/2008 11:44:00 PM Are you convinced? Tougher laws aimed at keeping teen drivers alive
IN AN effort to increase seat belt use, the Illinois State Police and State Farm Insurance have teamed up to give teen drivers a first-hand opportunity to experience the force generated in a low speed crash. Trooper Mark Dorencz, District 5 safety education officer, recently visited drivers education classes at Coal City High School where students had an opportunity to strap themselves in for a ride down the convincer. The visit was sponsored by Jerry Hallahan-State Farm Insurance in Diamond.
Ann Gill Editor
It was late summer 2002 when Sara Dale and a group of friends headed out for the night, but an act of mischief turned the innocent outing into a tragedy for a small Ohio town.
"It was just us six going out for a good time. The next thing I know I see a hand pulling on the steering wheel and the first time I could correct it," said Dale, who's boyfriend had reached over from the passengers seat and tugged on the wheel.
"He pulled again and the car went into a slide," but this time Sara was unable to gain control of the vehicle and it went sideways into a tree.
When Dale came to, her red Geo Prism was wrapped around the tree, three of her four rearseat passengers, none of whom were wearing seatbelts, had been thrown out the back window and the fourth was trapped inside.
"That's when it hit me, they're not unconscious, they're dead," said Dale.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among U.S. teens, most of whom don't wear seatbelts when riding with someone else, and according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the crash risk is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than any other age group.
It's easy to get wrapped up in statistics, but they prove the point that teen drivers simply don't have the experience.
In a move aimed at reducing traffic crashes and fatalities involving young drivers, new laws went into effect earlier this year for teen drivers in Illinois.
Illinois' Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program is comprised of nine provisions that, among other things, extends the permit phase from three to nine months; restricts nighttime driving, requires a student driver to obtain a minimum of six hours of actual, on-the-street driving training with a certified instructor and requires a teen driver to earn their way from one stage of the program to the next.
"This law will not only make Illinois' teen driver program one of the strongest in the nation, but more importantly, it will save lives," states Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who spent more than a year working with his Teen Driver Safety Task Force in developing the legislation.
White reports that a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety determined this new law could reduce fatal traffic crashes involving 16-year-old drivers by 38 percent.
In November 2007, state officials announced that 105 high schools were selected to receive a grant through the Operation Teen Safe Driving initiative, a program designed to help schools implement local teen-led safe driving campaigns in an effort to reduce the number of fatalities and crashes.
Gardner-South Wilmington High School was among the schools selected to receive grant funds based on its effectiveness in identifying a problem, creativity in developing a proposal to address that problem and the program's ability to reach teens and the entire community.
As part of the project developed by GSW driver's education teacher Terese Cookman, students at the school will take part in a presentation by Mark Dorencz, an Illinois State Police trooper and safety education officer.
The student body is expected to see demonstration of a rollover simulator, as well as view an informational video produced by State Farm Insurance.
State Farm's Rearview: Looking Back, video features the stories of four young adults who look back at the traffic crashes that changed their lives.
Gibson City residents Randy and Bonnie Arends appear in the video with their son, Steve, who survived a 2003 crash that killed his twin brother, Greg.
The story of Sara Dale is featured in the video, as is the tale of a young man who got behind the wheel after a night of celebrating with his friend who had just turned 21. The car crashed, the friend died and he was convicted of manslaughter.
And then there is the story of Ashley Biersach, of California, who was headed to school when the car she was riding in hit a pole and split in half. She survived, but lost a leg in the accident.
The video, produced for the Bloomington-based insurance company, is included in its Steer Clear driver's program packet, a safety awareness program is for drivers under age 25.
Promoting seatbelt use
In an effort to increase teen seat belt use, State Farm donated several Seat Belt convincers to the Illinois State Police.
The convincer demonstrates the importance of wearing a seatbelt and gives students a first-hand opportunity to experience the force generated in a low speed crash.
"I think (students) are really surprised by the force of a 5 to 7 mile per hour crash, they don't realize it gives them a nice jolt," said Trooper Dorencz, who spoke recently to drivers education students at Coal City and Reed-Custer high schools.
"I always tell them that you magnify that by 10 to 15 times, I think they find that really hard to believe, so hopefully they get the point the faster they go the more it's going to hurt," he said.
Several students in Lenny Onsen's class at CCHS strapped themselves in for the quick ride down the convincer, which allows the rider to experience how a safety belt protects them from injury when they're involved in a crash.
"Are you convinced?," Dorencz asked student Kyle Gabehart after he came to an abrupt stop. The student simply shook his head in agreement.
In addition to demonstrating the convincer, Dorencz addresses traffic safety issues with the students, providing numerous examples of the importance of safety belt use.
Since implementing the educational program, Dorencz has addressed numerous teen drivers. His schedule finds him traveling to dozens more in the next few months.
Is the program working?
"I think overall in the state of Illinois our (seat belt) compliance rate is going up and it's encouraging. Unfortunately with the kids they see it and they're still not going to do it. I would like to think we're going to be at 100 percent some day, but there is always going to be someone who defies it and unfortunately they're going to be the one who gets hurt."
Posted: Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Article comment by:
Well, Sara in the first place shouldn't of been driving without an adult over 21 in the car. She should of had an adult in the car. It's her fault and the pasaengers fault too. If she hadn't been driving over 75 mph and he didn't kept grabbing the wheel. Then the 4 people in the backseat would be a live. 12 years ago that happend. And if it didn't the kids in the backseat would either be 28 or 29 still living and having a family. But, it's sara's fault they can't have all that. I am turning 16 in july3, 2014. and i will be a safe and better driver than Sara Dale.