The number of teenagers who died in a car accident is half what it was in 2007, and the Illinois Department of Transportation credits a high school awareness program.   Sergio Perez, a senior from Beardstown, says while showing people car crash facts and graphs may help, most students don’t pay attention to the warnings and have a feeling of invincibility behind the wheel. That is until they realize it could happen to them, he says.


Click here for summary

When his principal told the story about someone he knew who got in to a car wreck, he says he could see the impact on his friends’ faces.  “At the end of the assembly everything was silent and I think that impacted everybody more than all the information the speaker gave us,” Sergio says.   But he says it wasn’t until a fellow student was paralyzed in a crash while texting and driving that he and his friends started to take driving safety seriously.    “There was just so many prayers and it just kind of impacted me,” Perez says. “I thought that it could actually happen to me. It wouldn’t only affect me. It would affect my family, my friends. It’s just… my life could change.”   More than 100 schools participate in the awareness program, Operation Teen Safe Driving. IDOT awards schools with the best programs, such as Beardstown, with money for after-prom events. Thirty-five school groups from across the state won prizes.   The winning schools in each region are as follows:


Southwestern Illinois

1st place: Marquette High School (Alton)

2nd place: Murphysboro High School

3rd place: Elverado High School (Elkville)

4th place: North Greene High School (White Hall)

5th place: Egyptian High School (Tamms)


Southeastern Illinois

1st place: Wayne City High School

2nd place: Mount Carmel High School

3rd place: Herrin High School

4th place: Norris City-Omaha Enfield High School

5th place: Sesser-Valier High School



Cook County

1st place: Oak Forest High School

2nd place: Evergreen Park Community High School

3rd place: John Hersey High School (Arlington Heights)

4th place: Thornton Fractional North High School (Calumet City)

5th place: Wells Community Academy High School (Chicago)


Chicago suburbs

1st place: Gardner South Wilmington High School

2nd place: H.D. Jacobs High School (Algonquin)

3rd place: Glenbard West High School (Glen Ellyn)

4th place: Lincoln-Way Central High School (New Lenox)

5th place: Crystal Lake Central High School                    


Northern Illinois

1st place: Ottawa Township High School

2nd place: Milledgeville High School

3rd place: Riverdale High School (Port Byron)

4th place: Lena-Winslow High School

5th place: Rockridge High School (Taylor Ridge)


Central-Western Illinois

1st place: Fieldcrest High School (Minonk)

2nd place: Quincy Senior High School

3rd place: Beardstown High School

4th place: Sacred Heart-Griffin High School (Springfield)

5th place: Riverton High School


Central-Eastern Illinois

1st place: Donovan High School

2nd place: Neoga High School

3rd place: Deland-Weldon High School

4th place: Meridian High School (Macon)

5th place: Tuscola Community High School