KLEO Center steering youth to safe, clean driving

August 22, 2013 (CHICAGO)

One night a week more than 100 young people pack to the K.L.E.O. Community Family Life Center for an evening of hip-hop and spoken word. It's an opportunity to express themselves in a safe environment that's also free. But Pastor Torrey Barrett sees another opportunity.

He uses the time to encourage a captive audience to wear their seat belts and to avoid driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

"We're able to do is bring it down to their level, give examples of things that they do," he said.

The K.L.E.O. Center is one of twenty non-profits working with safe communities for Illinois. That's a pilot program from the Illinois Department of Transportation. They are specifically targeting African-American and Hispanic men ages 18 to 34. Car crashes are a leading cause of death for that group, second only to street violence.

"We want people to understand the importance of driving sober, wearing your seat belt, getting a designated driver," said Gloria Prowell, Safe Communities for Illinois. "These are small issues that can be dealt with and save plenty of lives."

Barrett holds an open discussion and encourages honesty.

For some, his safe driving message is an easy sell.

"I was in a car accident with my seat belt on and the seat belt saved my life," said Teirra Napier.

Others prove there's still much more work to be done.

"I wear my seat belt when I'm in the car with people that's under the influence and I'm on the e-way. I'll take my chances then. Other than that I won't take my chances. If I know I might be driving the car, I'll take my chances on getting a ticket," said Capree Wyatt.

Between 2009 and 2011, 234 people died in car crashes on Illinois roads. Ffity-one percent of those victims were young, African American men. Twenty-two percent were Hispanic.



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