18-year-old credits wearing her seat belt as the reason for surviving a head-on crash SPRINGFIELD - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today named 18-year-old high school student Jessica Bacon, as the latest recipient of the People Are Today’s Heroes (PATH) Award for volunteering her time to educate others about the importance of wearing a seat belt.
"Seat belts save lives. When a young woman like Jessica Bacon is not only living proof of the importance of buckling up, but she also selflessly dedicates her own time to preach that message, she’s proudly part of today’s heroes," said Gov. Blagojevich.
The Governor's PATH Award recognizes groups or individuals who, through their hard work and commitment, have improved the lives of people in their community in the areas of health care, public safety, education and economic development. The awards are chosen by and presented through state agencies. The Illinois State Police selected Ms. Bacon for the award.
On November 13, 2004, the 17-year-old Lena-Winslow High School senior was on her way to a basketball game in Freeport when her 1990 Chevy Lumina was struck head-on by another automobile, which had crossed the centerline on a curve. Jessica's car sustained severe front-end damage, resulting in her being pinned in her seat by the dashboard. After arriving at the crash and assessing Jessica’s injuries, ISP Sergeant Dave Youngblut began talking with her while awaiting the arrival of emergency medical personnel. Ms. Bacon told Sergeant Youngblut she recognized him from giving a safety presentation to her driver’s education class and credited his lecture as the reason she makes sure to always wear her seat belt. After recovering from severe facial lacerations, a fractured pelvis, damaged knee ligaments, and numerous cuts and bruises, Jessica began working with Sergeant Youngblut on a crash survival story for a seat belt promotion program. Since that time, Jessica has unselfishly volunteered her time to tell her story of survival to audiences throughout the state. She has also been presented with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Saved by the Belt Award and has appeared at the 2005 Chicago Auto Show and 15th Annual Northwest Illinois Police Week Event in Rockford. Jessica makes these appearances voluntarily to make sure she educates audiences on the importance of seat belts.
Illinois State Police (ISP) Director Larry G. Trent presented the Governor's PATH Award to Ms. Bacon on behalf of Gov. Blagojevich at the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) tent at the Illinois State Fair.
"I applaud the Governor for taking the time to recognize Jessica, not only for surviving such a horrendous traffic crash, but for her efforts to help others," said ISP Director Trent. "After what she's been through and with the realization of how important safety belt usage really is, she generously volunteers her time to raise seat belt awareness. Her commitment to this important traffic safety issue inspires us, and I am pleased to present this award to such a deserving young person."
"We know the most simple thing you can do to save your life in a crash is to buckle up," said Mike Stout, Director of IDOT's Division of Traffic Safety. "We can preach the value of buckling up until we're blue in the face, but some people just don't get it, and with Jessica sharing her story it gives people a face to place with a safety message. When they hear her speak, they know that she would literally not be here today talking to them if she didn’t buckle up."