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Safe driving habits rewarded with new cars

Marian Central Catholic High School junior Alysa Luczak reacts to winning a new car Thursday in Crystal Lake. (Lawerence Synett/Tribune)

Marian Central Catholic High School junior Alysa Luczak reacts to winning a new car Thursday in Crystal Lake. (Lawerence Synett/Tribune)

More than a year after a head-on collision totaled her only means of transportation, Marian Central Catholic High School junior Alysa Luczak is now the owner of a new vehicle through Operation Click.

Luczak was one of 20 students who had the opportunity to win a new car as part of Operation Click, a program founded in Crystal Lake in 1998 aimed at reducing fatalities and injuries from car accidents by teaching high school students safe driving habits.

The 17-year-old sat in the new Chevrolet Cobalt outside D’Andrea Banquets in Crystal Lake this week with one of eight keys that could possibly start the car.

She took a deep breath and turned the key — it started and the car was hers.

“I thought I broke the key for a second because I turned it so hard,” Luczak said. “I never thought I would win. This is so exciting.”

The other winner was Crystal Lake Central High School junior Mikayla Tuszynski, who walked away with a new Chrysler PT Cruiser during the event that celebrated the participants’ success throughout the school year.

“It feels like a dream,” said Tuszynski, 17. “I don’t know what else to say.”

Crystal Lake Central High School junior Mikayla Tuszynski reacts to winning a new car. (Lawerence Synett/Tribune)

Operation Click was started by the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce, Crystal Lake Park District, Crystal Lake Police Department and Community High School District 155 and began with three schools. It now includes 30 high schools in five different chapters throughout the area.

The thousands of participants sign a contract at the beginning of the school year stating they will wear their seatbelts at all times, won’t drink and drive or ride in a car with someone who has consumed alcohol, and will not be convicted of any traffic violations.

That includes students monitoring their friends’ driving habits by getting them to sign contracts and then performing seatbelt safety checks and otherwise encouraging safe driving habits.

“The goal is to target teens that are just starting to drive and break the bad habits before they can set it,” said Sean McGrath, president of Operation Click and a Crystal Lake police officer.

Since the program’s inception, seatbelt compliance has drastically risen throughout the area, McGrath said. Participants this year from Prairie Ridge, Cary-Grove and Marian Central Catholic high schools reached a 99 percent compliance rate.

The chapters include Barrington/Hoffman Estates, with Fremd, Lake Zurich and Barrington, Elk Grove, Conant and Hoffman Estates high schools; Crystal Lake, with Cary-Grove, Prairie Ridge and Crystal Lake South and Central High Schools; McHenry and Woodstock, with Johnsburg, Harvard, Marian Central Catholic, Woodstock and McHenry West and East high schools; and Wauconda, with Vernon Hills, Libertyville and Wauconda high schools.

A partnership with AAA Auto Insurance allowed the program to expand to include a chapter in Walworth County, Wis.

The two winners came from the Woodstock/McHenry and Crystal Lake chapters. A student from the Barrington/Hoffman Estates chapter will win a car May 4 in Hoffman Estates.

“A teen driver has teen habits,” McGrath said. “They don’t want to know why they should obey the rules of the road, they want to know what’s in it for them, and that is why we offer these incentives.”

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