There’s always something “GOOD” in the neighborhood.” With summer ending and fall quickly approaching, communities are hosting festivals, parades and a slew of other activities in communities all over the city to take full advantage of the last days of summer. This summer season has been great for the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Safe Communities project (SCIL) because it is marked by milestone accomplishments for the new pilot project. In its efforts to SAVE LIVES by raising awareness about safe driving practices, SCIL’s community-based grantees have hosted over 90 activities throughout the city of Chicago. These activities specifically targeted African American and Hispanic males ages 18-34 within 20 Chicago communities with higher rates of car injuries and fatalities. Additionally, these events helped raise awareness about the SCIL project and promoted messages of driving sober, using seat belts, and avoiding distracted driving during the summer holiday season. Moreover, SCIL’s grantees have conducted canvassing campaigns, presentations, forums, established partnerships and connected with various media outlets to accomplish their program objectives reaching 6,000+ people. As a result, various businesses, city departments and officials have become partners and committed supporter of SCIL’s efforts to raise awareness about safe driving practices within Chicago. Various articles promoting the community partners’ efforts have been published in neighborhood newspapers to help raise awareness within Chicago communities. Additionally, to gain more insight about beliefs, behaviors, and engagement strategies, SCIL’s grantees conducted over 1,700 surveys within 20 Chicago communities and established a city-wide coalition to help inform the project’s outreach efforts.
In intensifying efforts to reach African American and Hispanic males, the SCIL project hosted a panel discussion comprised of eleven minority males ages 18-34. The purpose of this discussion was to get a better understanding about the mindsets and behavioral tendencies of minority male drivers. During the discussion a startling statistic was shared with the panel stating, “car fatalities are the second leading cause of death among minority males in Chicago.” Panel participants were shocked by this information and responded with an intense urgency to share the message about the need to use safe driving practices. Panel members were also eager to share their perspectives about the key contributing factors to unsafe driving habits, such as beliefs that seat belts are uncool and restrictive, and that one or two drinks won’t impair driving. As they talked and brainstormed, panel members formulated some strategies to help effectively reach, educate and reduce mortality rates among the African American and Hispanic male population within Chicago communities. The lively interaction among panel members kept the audience engaged and provided a wealth of information to event attendees and SCIL administrators. It was also very inspirational to see 11 African American and Hispanic males in leadership roles informing and developing solutions to the critical issue of reducing driving injuries and fatalities among high risk populations. There IS something GOOD in the neighborhood……it’s the SCIL project, it’s community-based grantees and all the leaders engaged in this effort.
By Angelique Orr
Phoenix Star Inc.