- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) - Hundreds of area high school students learned firsthand the effects of common dangerous driving habits - and potentially deadly consequences that could result.

The first Drive for Tomorrow program in Peoria kicked off Wednesday at the Civic Center with golf cart driving courses, oversize tricycles paired with goggles meant to mimic the effects of alcohol intoxication and other simulations for distracted driving and seat belt use in rollover crashes.

“The idea is to give them some real-world exposure,” said Brian Williamsen, spokesman for Illinois Department of Transportation District 4. “It works like a school day - you go from event to event.”

The program also featured graphic images of fatal crashes, at times silencing rooms full of talkative teenagers from six high schools in the five-county region patrolled by Illinois State Police in District 8, the agency that co-sponsored the daylong program with IDOT.

Perhaps no surprise, presenters stressed seat belt use at all times in every vehicle, no matter how short the expected ride.

Trooper Ross Green, safety education officer for state police in District 8, drove the point home with a pair of dummies and a life-size pickup truck replica mounted on a platform and designed to spin at various speeds. Students groaned and winced as the dummies were ejected.

“Not wearing a seat belt during a rollover crash, your chances of survival are slim,” Green said.

A separate course that used images from crash scenes to illustrate the type of carnage emergency responders find after wrecks where some or all occupants don’t buckle up included an additional statistic: People who don’t wear a seat belt are 25 times more likely to die if ejected from a vehicle than those who are restrained and remain inside a vehicle during a crash.

Similar programs have been hosted in other state police districts throughout Illinois, though the event at the Civic Center is the first for Peoria.

Organizers had hoped for up to 3,000 students to attend over the course of four days, but the timing of the inaugural event coincided with standardized testing schedules that prevented several schools from attending. A total of 692 students are expected to participate in the program Wednesday and Thursday.

The Drive for Tomorrow program is intended to be an annual event, with eventual sponsorship from community organizations.

“We’re taking a look at the future, as far as the program goes,” Williamsen said. “The goal beyond it is to reduce teen fatalities, teen crashes, and really give teen drivers a better idea what it means to be safe behind the wheel.”

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Source: (Peoria) Journal Star, https://bit.ly/1JLEG6x

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Information from: Journal Star, https://pjstar.com

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