Jesse Whiteteendriving kicked off National Teen Driver Safety Week on Oct. 15, 2017 by announcing that teen driving deaths have decreased by 51 percent in less than 10 years.

The graduated driver’s license program in Illinois was strengthened when the Teen Driver Safety Task Force was established in 2008 with the goal of decreasing the number of teen deaths in Illinois.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, graduated licenses reduce teens’ driving risks by allowing teens to practice driving with supervision before getting their full- license and limiting in-car distractions. In Illinois, the new graduated licensing laws restricted hours of night driving for teenagers and the number of passengers that drivers under 20 can have in their car. Today, all states have some foundations of the GDL program.

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Rochelle Ilinois In the small town of Rochelle, about 80 miles west of Chicago at the intersection of Interstates 88 and 39, business is booming. The Greater Rochelle Economic Development Corporation has attracted companies like Nippon Sharyo, Boise Cascade, Tyson Foods, and Hormel.

This rural community consists of about 9,000 people, and its economy is bolstered by frozen French fries, bacon, ethanol, fabricated steel, hydroponic tomatoes, and the production of passenger cars for METRA. Each year, about 16,000 freight cars pass through Rochelle, picking up and delivering grain and other goods. Rochelle will soon gain another local gross domestic product from a boutique whiskey that is distilled in a former downtown theater.

Rochelle is also home to a 1,200 acre intermodal rail park operated by Union Pacific. This park is used as a shipping point to send goods to the Pacific Rim.

The growth doesn’t stop there. The future for Rochelle as an industrial star in Illinois and the Midwest looks bright. Rochelle is working to bring a $1.6 billion auto assembly plant from Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp., which could employ 4,000 people, to the town. Bidders from more than a dozen states are looking at the same prize, but Rochelle is already prepared. The town has 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans set aside for the new plant.

Rochelle is proving the common melody played by political and business elites wrong. Illinois is not a diminishing state, but instead outshining surrounding states in certain areas thanks to cities like Rochelle.

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Dog parkWhen dog owner Todd Agosto struggled to find a dog park in the south side of Chicago, rather than traveling to a different neighborhood, he built one instead.

Created on a series of abandoned tennis courts in the Jackson Park neighborhood, Jackson Bark has become the third largest dog park in Chicago and the only dog-friendly area in the far south side of the city.

Agosto, who is the proud owner of a pit bull and a German shepherd, first started building the community dog park in 2014. He used his own funds and did most of the work to help create the dog agility and obstacle course.

More than 90 percent of the materials Agosto used for the dog course were salvaged from leftover construction projects in the surrounding neighborhoods. For instance, Jackson Bark’s handmade agility equipment includes recycled tires built into steps that dogs can climb.

The park also boasts two separate play areas, 100 pieces of equipment and a wide variety of toys. Additionally, because it’s equipped with lights, Jackson Bark is one of the only places in Chicago where dogs are welcome after dark.

Although Jackson Bark is not officially recognized by the Chicago Park District, the informal site has become beloved by residents and dog owners all throughout the south side. It is completely run and maintained by Agosto and volunteers from the community.

Jackson Bark recently celebrated its third anniversary on August 26, which also happens to be International Dog Day.

vegetables 1968013 1280CHICAGO – A Chicago food incubator is planning to open a new $30 million facility in the East Garfield Park Neighborhood of Chicago. The Hatchery, an organization that helps local restaurants grow and expand, announced it will open a 67,000 square foot facility in the impoverished West Side community.

The Hatchery is a joint venture between Accion Chicago, the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago and the IFF, a Community Development Financial Institution that helps entrepreneurs with financing. The purpose of the Hatchery is to put all three areas needed for business success in one place: access to production space, financing and resources.

The Hatchery estimates the new facility will create up to 150 jobs the first year it opens, 2018. They also estimate that by year 5, almost 900 jobs will have been created locally.

The new facility will have everything local entrepreneurs need to start their business and live the American Dream. The facility will include 56 private production spaces, storage, a shared kitchen, event space, meeting rooms, training for entrepreneurs and Accion Chicago’s new headquarters.

Construction on the facility is planned to begin this fall and should be complete by the fall of 2018. The new facility will be located near the Kedzie Green Line station at Lake Street and Kedzie Avenue.

Dan RyanA recent report from the National Safety Council ranks Illinois as the top state in the nation for road safety. The State of Safety report focuses on eight categories, including: distracted driving impaired driving, seat belt usage, child passengers, older drivers, speeding, teen drivers and vulnerable road users.

Illinois’ top grade on road safety would not have been possible without the work and commitment of Senate President John Cullerton, who has championed traffic safety legislation over the past 30 years.

The Senate President began working to improve road safety early in his career when he sponsored the Child Passenger Protection Act in 1983. This law required children under age 4 to use child safety seats in cars. This legislation was later updated in 2003 to extend protections to children under the age of 8 with the addition of a booster seat requirement. To learn more about child passenger safety laws, click here.

Soon after that, the Senate President sponsored legislation to require front-seat passengers in cars to wear seat belts. At the time, just over 15 percent of passengers used seat belts. Now, that number has climbed to 94 percent. The Senate President expanded this legislation in 2011, when he sponsored a bill to require passengers in the back seat of vehicles to wear seat belts as well.

To combat the rising number of teen deaths and car accidents, in 2007, the Senate President helped implement graduated licenses for teens. Under this legislation, teens progress through a series of tiered driving restrictions as they gain more experience.

While serving as the Senate President, legislation to curb distracted driving was implemented. In the time it takes to look at a text message, a car traveling at 55 miles per hour will cover the length of a football field. Since 2014, driving while using a phone is a ticketable offense. Drivers are still able to use hands-free features on their phones and one-touch dialing.

These important pieces of legislation have saved countless lives and contributed to Illinois’ recognition for having the safest roads in the U.S.

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