Osewego does not have to re-invent the wheel.
Since 1998, Crystal Lake has figured out a way to induce teens to wear seat belts.
A combination of prizes and education has proven successful in increasing seat belt use from 65% to 95%.
As Crystal Lake’s Deputy Police Chief Dennis Harris told me,
We have seen almost a 50% increase in seat belt compliance. That 95% is significantly higher than the national average of between 72 and 75%.And the biggest inducement:
Anecdotally, we do believe that the rate of teen accidents and the severity of those accidents has declined.
The grand prize is now a new car, but was a late model car previously.There is nothing to stop this idea from spreading widely.
In fact, the program is now being introduced into four more high schools.
Maybe your town will have someone like Crystal Lake Pontiac-GMC Truck dealer Sam Oginni, who just opened another dealership in Fox Lake. He donates the car.
Maybe other towns will have a public-spirited car dealer or used car dealer.
There’s, of course, a federal tax benefit, but there is no reason the State of Illinois couldn’t offer one, too.
That’s a way legislators could get into the act.
And it would probably have more effect than the bills now being considered.
Could any of the legislation now being considered increase seat belt usage to 95%?
How about a 50% state tax credit for anyone who is willing to give away a car as a grand prize for a program similar to Crystal Lake’s at high schools all over Illinois?
If all 781 high schools in Illinois took part with one car per high school and the car costing about $14,000, the maximum cost would be $5.5 million. Of course, it could start with a pilot program of 71 high schools would only cost half a million.
If high schools were grouped so they can compete, $500,000 would go a long way.
The state already provides up to 50% state tax credit for businesses that help employees buy housing.
How about a tax credit to help keep teens alive?
How much could it cost at $5,000 to $10,000 per high school?
And Crystal Lake’s program, which used to be called Operation Cool, covers four high schools and is in the process of expanding to four more.
For whatever reason, the Illinois State Police will not relinquish the name “Operation Cool” to the successful non-for-profit group in Crystal Lake, so the program has been renamed “Operation Click.”
You can learn more about Operation Cool, now Operation Click, here at McHenry County Blog.
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Crystal Lake Pontiac dealer Sam Oginni is seen with Operation Cool car winner Matt Frederick in the picture above. The other images are from Operation Cool's web site.