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New driver’s ed tool aims to teach downed power line safety

Ameren Illinois officials said over 3,000 drivers crash into utility poles in the state every year, often resulting in dangerous downed power lines.

Now, there’s a new program to teach new drivers what to do around power lines.

Illinois driver’s ed teachers said dealing with power lines has not been a focus of their lessons.
But, an Ameren Illinois-sponsored program looks to change that.

“Actually I never really knew much about it until we had our conference earlier this year,” said Payson High School Driver’s Ed Teacher AJ Smith.

He said the first time he heard about dealing with downed power lines was at a driver’s ed conference earlier this year.

Now, he’s implemented a new learning module from Ameren Illinois to better prepare his students.

“I’ll start with a day on it. There’s a video that comes with it, […] students can also take a quiz on it as well,” said Smith.

Ameren Illinois spokesperson Brian Bretsch said they hosted a demonstration for area teachers last year, focusing on only leaving the car if there’s a fire.

In a situation where your car leaves the roadway and you come in contact with a power pole and lines come down, always always assume that those lines are energized

Bretsch said after the presentation, local drivers ed teachers:

“Were in awe, and we walked over and talked to them and said do you guys teach young drivers what they should do if they leave the roadway and come in contact with a power line, and they said no,” said Bretsch.

Which is why they put together the teaching module.

Now, teachers like smith are using that program to get the message out to young drivers.

“You could be a passenger in the car, […] [the driver] may panic at the time, and you could be there to remind them, hey stay in the car,” said Smith.

Bretsch said they’ve reached out to over 500 regional driver’s education programs to try and get the information in as many hands as possible.

Below is a link to the program, and a printable information card:
Downed Power Line & Vehicle Safety
Informational glove box card

Frank Healy

Multimedia Journalist at WGEM

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