Our Views: Operation Click good way to steer safe driving habits

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The chance to win a car should make any teenager sit up and take notice.

Will it be enough to convince young drivers to end their hazardous habits?

Regardless, AAA and Burtness Chevrolet earn extra credit for teaming up and introducing Operation Click to Rock County. The program encourages teens to drive safely. To get a chance to win a Chevy Cobalt donated by the Orfordville dealership, a student must sign a pledge to follow rules. They include no texting while driving, wearing seat belts when driving or riding in a vehicle, no drinking and driving or riding with someone who has been drinking, no convictions for traffic or alcohol-related offenses and avoiding school disciplinary problems.

Students at Craig and Parker high schools in Janesville, as well as at Edgerton, Evansville and Parkview, are taking part. One student from one of these schools will win the car. Similarly, high school students at Badger, Elkhorn, Whitewater, Big Foot, East Troy, Delavan-Darien and Williams Bay hope to win a car in Walworth County.

Deri Wahlert, a Parker teacher and program co-adviser, figures about 75 students at Craig and Parker have signed pledges, ahead of the kickoff event at Parker during the Craig vs. Parker girls basketball game at 7 p.m. Thursday. The event will stress seat belt use and avoiding texting. An event close to prom will focus on the dangers of drinking and driving.

The AAA program started in 1998 in Crystal Lake, Ill. Operation Click has spread to five Illinois counties, and Rock and Walworth are the first two in Wisconsin. It offers $1,500 for promotions and events at each school.

It’s not surprising that AAA would create such a program. The American Automobile Association was founded more than 100 years ago. It boasts more than 50 million members and lobbies for driver and passenger rights and safety while promoting travel.

It’s also not surprising that Burtness is involved. Burtness has built a reputation for offering fair deals. It thrived for decades in cramped quarters in the village’s downtown before moving last year to an impressive new 15-acre site on Highway 11.

It’s reasonable to wonder how many teens will improve their driving habits. Good, conscientious drivers will readily sign up for the chance to win the car while obeying the rules of the road. Many teens, however, think they’re invincible. They too often try to impress their friends with derring-do. Some of these kids, for example, might sign the pledge and continue to text while driving because social media is so engrained in their lives.

Still, it’s good to hear that Parker students are checking fellow drivers as they pull into the parking lot and handing out treats for those buckled up and not texting. We hope the program grows in future years while building awareness and steering at least some teens toward smart, safe behaviors that become lifetime habits.

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