IL teen driving deaths down 57 percent in 7 years

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says teenage driving deaths are down by nearly 60 percent in the state.

The Democrat kicked off National Teen Driver Safety Week by announcing that is a new low since the state began the graduated driver’s licensing program that took effect in 2008.

For 15-year-old Murphysboro High School student, Drew Stokes, it’s her first week in Driver’s Ed.

“Yeah, yesterday I was really kind of nervous. Mr. Murphy was really cool about it,” Stokes said.

But Drew already has a few months experience behind the wheel. Something she might not have had as a first time driver 15 years ago…

Daryl Murphy has been teaching drivers education nearly 30 years. He said most students today, like Drew, have experience driving with their parents.

That’s because recent changes to state law require teens have at least 50 hours driving of experience with an adult before getting their ticket to drive alone.

“I think now that our students are driving with their parents. It allows me to teach them some more specialized training.

In 2007, there were 155 teen involved driving deaths in 2007, according to the Illinois Department of transportation.

Last year, that number fell to 66, a 57 percent decrease.

Murphy also said the state’s drivers ed programs also highlights the dangers of drinking and driving, distracted driving, and the importance of wearing a seat belt…

“I think it’s been a collaborative effort by our secretary of state of Illinois, the emphasis on the driver’s education programs,” Murphy said. “It’s been such a collaborative effort of our state policemen, the county sheriff’s our own police in our own town,” Murphy said

An effort that will prepare young drivers like Drew to hit the road safe

“In the class it seems like oh yeah I knew that, but on the road it’s like so different because you’re really have to focus when other cars are around and everything.”

Murphy mentioned is that there are talks about removing drivers ed programs from schools, due to a lack of budget. He believes drivers ed programs keep a strong role among teenagers within the classroom setting.

The graduated driver’s licensing program is designed to prepare novice, teenage drivers by giving them more time to get experience behind the wheel under the supervision of a parent or guardian. Teenagers must earn their way to the next stage of driving by avoiding traffic convictions.