A partnership between Toyota, the National Safety Council and Kentucky State Police is taking aim at the Commonwealth's No. 1 killer of teens: motor-vehicle crashes.
At a press conference today at Kentucky State Police headquarters in Frankfort, it was announced that Alive at 25, an innovative defensive-driving course developed by the National Safety Council (NSC), will be implemented statewide over the next two years with the help of a $150,000 grant from Toyota operations in Kentucky. The state-certified four-hour course is FREE and expected to reach over 11,000 high school students.
Kentucky is the first to offer the NSC program statewide. Also unique is the fact that the 17 certified instructors are Kentucky State Police (KSP) employees, including troopers and officers.
"One of the most difficult tasks we deal with is the deaths of teen drivers on roadways throughout the Commonwealth," said Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer. "I sincerely appreciate the support of Toyota and the National Safety Council that enables us to bring this training to the youth of Kentucky. It's a program that can really make a difference in making our roadways a safer place to travel."
Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson applauds the expansion of the program. "Kentucky is fortunate to have a strong corporate citizen like Toyota that is dedicated to teen-driver safety. Alive at 25 helps teens understand the dangers of distracted driving, a critical safety element in today's high-tech culture. This program makes the roads safer for all of us."
Kentucky State Police instructors first began teaching Alive at 25 classes in 2004. Since then, the state's death toll among drivers ages 16 to 19 has dropped 46 percent. However, the number of teen drivers killed in passenger vehicles in Kentucky in 2012 increased by 20 percent from the previous year. This increase prompted KSP to increase the number of instructors and programs being taught in Kentucky, which will be realized via the Toyota grant.
This is the second $150,000 grant Toyota has given toward Alive at 25. The first, in 2004, helped kick-start the program. Because of that initial success, the automaker increased its commitment.
"Being an auto manufacturer is not just about building safe, quality vehicles, but, also promoting safe driving – especially among teens," said Walter Odisho, vice president, manufacturing, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. "Toyota understands the challenges facing teen drivers – including the ever-growing epidemic of distracted driving – and strives to take a leadership role among its industry. Alive at 25 lines up perfectly for what we are trying to accomplish."
The classes involve interactive media segments, workbook exercises, role playing and more, allowing young drivers the ability to develop convictions and strategies that will keep them safe on the road. The latest edition has a strong focus on good decision-making skills. Skill practice and on-the-spot defensive driving techniques help change bravado into confidence. In addition to language that resonates with young adults, there's also emphasis on classroom participation. Participants are encouraged to join in non-threatening, non-judgmental discussions — exploring how changing driving behavior makes personal, legal and financial sense.
"Teen driver crashes affect us all, and some of us in profound ways," said Shay Gallagher, Vice President and General Manager at NSC. "The Alive at 25 program is unique in that it goes beyond teaching basic driving skills to explain why teens crash and how to prevent these crashes. That information is vital and will help us save lives and prevent injuries on our roadways."
One proponent of the Alive at 25 is David Dailey, assistant principal, Meade County High School. Dailey said the school implemented the program in 2010 because "too often, we were losing students to traffic fatalities."
Dailey said since Alive at 25 was instituted, there have been no other teen driver-related fatalities. "It has become an integral part of our overall safety initiative. I see students put what they learn into action as I monitor them entering and exiting our parking lot each day."
Through the Kentucky State Police, Alive at 25 programs are being booked at high schools throughout the Commonwealth. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has accepted the Alive at 25 curriculum for inclusion in the state's Graduated Driver Licensing Program – a three-step licensing system that has proven to reduce teen-related crashes. Alive at 25 is working alongside the transportation cabinet to educate teens in safe-driving practices, as well as allowing them to meet the legal requirements to obtain a driver's license.
In remembrance of the young Kentuckians who lost their lives in traffic crashes in 2012, 72 white chairs outlined the press-conference area. With each chair, either a blue or pink balloon was affixed, denoting the gender of the teen who was lost.
Brewer, the KSP commissioner, said it is a sad reminder.
"These young drivers represent a potential not realized. Who knows what contributions they could have made to society? These are needless deaths that could have been avoided through driver-education programs such as Alive at 25."
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