More than 1,500 driver's education students from throughout the region gathered at the Marion City Pavilion this past week to participate in the 10th annual Traffic Safety Days - Benton High School students among them.
The program is a collaborative effort on the part of the Williamson County Sheriff's Department, Illinois State Police and State Farm Insurance.
Public Relations Deputy Brian Murrah was pleased to report that things were running smoothly.
"It's going very well. The numbers are still good. We've had a very good turnout," he said.
Benton High School was one of the schools in attendance Thursday, and first-year Driver's Education teacher Aaron Webb was grateful for the vital lessons imparted to his students by police officers.
Webb is able to grasp both sides of issues involving driving safety and driving within the law, because he is also a former Mt. Vernon policeman.
"I love this. It gives them hands-on experience and lets them see that this is real life."
One of Webb's students, Hunter Roberts, feels kids will be more likely to wear seat belts after a particularly compelling "Seat Belt Convincer" demonstration.
Students watched while crash dummies were ejected from a spinning, life-size patrol car on display.
"It's a great experience that teaches you to wear your seat belt, because if you don't, you could die."
West Frankfort resident and Herrin High School driver's education instructor Jim Wangler, and fellow driver's ed teacher Jason Karnes have attended every year the program has existed.
Both men are pleased with the venue and agree that the instruction kids receive is "excellent." Wangler remarked that the presentations are "extremely convincing" and Karnes maintained that, with regard to the exhibits, he thinks "it gets better every year."
Sesser-Valier Athletic Director Chip Basso coaches basketball and football, and also teaches driver's education. He is grateful to State Farm Public Affairs Specialist Dave Oloffson, and all of the law enforcement officers who work so hard every year at the pavilion.
"It's a great opportunity for our kids to see some common sense, real, everyday things that relate directly to driving. It's interactive -- the kids get to see and do things that are outside of a classroom," he said.
Basso was extremely pleased with the "Seat Belt Convincer" exhibit.
"It is where a kid gets to feel a simulated impact at 5 miles per hour and that definitely teaches a lesson," he said. "You feel the force at 5 and realize what a 30 or 50 mph collision would feel like."
Specialist Oloffson says that "teen driver safety has been very important to us as a company for a long time.
"Obviously, with Traffic Safety Days, we can make them the better drivers they will become."