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updated: 10/3/2011 10:36 AM

District 214's 'Alive at 25' worth trying

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Car crashes remain the leading cause of death among teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Teen deaths and serious injuries from crashes remain much too prevalent in our communities.

We still shudder when we recall the particularly horrific crash we had to cover earlier this summer that left three teens dead in Prospect Heights after they crashed into a tree at a high rate of speed. None of the three wore seat belts. The teens in that car made multiple bad choices.

Driving safely is difficult. It's tougher than it was a generation ago. Then, we had to watch out for other bad drivers, coordinate our eyesight, hands and feet, and try not to be distracted by changing the channel on the dashboard radio when a bad song started playing. Today, many cars have radio controls built onto the steering wheel, but there is the added distraction of cellphones and all the wondrous technology and danger they bring.

The temptations are many. And so, we welcome any and all attempts to try to help scare teens straight. An "Alive at 25" program being taught at Northwest Suburban High School District 214 attempts to do some of that. A year ago, the district began adding a four-hour defensive driving section to driver's ed classes.

Daily Herald Staff Writer Melissa Silverberg recently reported that Jeff Jerdee, District 214's director of careers and technology education and driver education, worked with the National Safety Council to tweak curriculum to add the "Alive at 25" focus that has been around for decades.

The unit focuses on the responsibility and emotion of driving, while standard driver's ed classes focus on the nuts and bolts of operating a car and parallel parking.

Adding "Alive at 25" components to class make a great deal of sense. Jerdee said the unit helps students understand driving is a responsibility. It's a grave one.

The class includes instruction on withstanding peer pressure and taking control. It spends time on driving under the influence and teens' propensity to believe they're indestructible.

We know many suburban teens get some of this kind of instruction with graphic presentations at prom time, but more, and more often, is better.

Kathy Klaczek, a driver's ed teacher at Wheeling and Buffalo Grove high schools says the unit has brought a sense of seriousness and purpose to classes that temper that close-to-driving excitement teens feel. "Hopefully it makes them think and be safe," she said.

Indeed. We hope other suburban schools and private driving instructors will consider following District 214's lead by adding something like "Alive at 25" if they don't have it already.

If this program saves even one life, it will prevent endless heartache. And that will be well worth it.