East Troy student wins Operation Click car

Established program continues to stress the importance of developing safe driving habits amongst teens

Charlie Housh emerges from the Operation Click vehicle victoriously after it turns over, signifying he had won himself a new car. (Photo by Tom Ganser)


By Kellen Olshefski


A brief look of disappointment spread across the face of Charlie Housh, a senior at East Troy High School, though one more turn of the key proved to be what he needed to quickly turn that frown upside down as his new car sprung to life last Friday during Walworth County’s Operation Click banquet.

“I was about to get out of it and I was like, wait a minute, and I gave it one more twist and it started,” Housh said. “My stats teacher told me to ditch the first key I grabbed, so I grabbed the second key and I’m glad I listened.”

Groups of students from the eight high schools in the Walworth County Operation Click Chapter (Badger, Big Foot, Elkhorn, Catholic Central of Burlington, Delavan-Darien, Elkhorn, East Troy and Williams Bay) attended the April 25 banquet at Delavan’s Lake Lawn Resort in hopes of leaving with a new vehicle.

Sean McGrath, a police officer in Crystal Lake, Ill., and president of Operation Click, said as a part of the program students are asked to sign a contract at the beginning of the school year consisting of multiple requirements, including remaining enrolled in high school without discipline issues, never texting while driving, always wearing a seatbelt and encouraging passengers to wear their seatbelt and never being convicted of traffic, alcohol related or seatbelt violations during the school year.

McGrath said the way finalists are selected for the car key drawing is through four random seatbelt compliance surveys. In averaging out the surveys, if a school maintains a 95 percent seatbelt compliance or above, it gets to pull one contract at random from all of the contracts turned in at the beginning of the school year. If the Operation Click board approves a school’s end of the year report, the school gets to pull another contract at random. New this year, the student of the year, who happened to be Tyler Sheeks from Badger High School, is also allowed to draw a key.

Housh was the 12th student out of 16 to draw a key. Though not everyone left with a new vehicle, each of the other students selected by their school to attempt to start the car, the “victoriously challenged” as McGrath jokingly described them as, went home with a $50 gift card for Walmart, generously donated by National Gift Card.

The car given away as part of the annual program was donated by Kunes Country Auto Group located in Delavan, Elkhorn, Antioch, Ill., and Mount Carroll, Ill.

Gregg Kunes described an accident after last year’s Operation Click event in which one of his employees was involved in an accident after having a few drinks following a Packers game. The mother in the vehicle, from Whitewater, wasn’t wearing her seatbelt and died in the accident.

“I felt like we were guilty,” Kunes said. “He’s still in jail, she’s dead, the daughter’s living with it and we’re all living with this. I’m appreciative, I believe in God 100 percent and I believe I felt it for a reason, so we stay committed to this program…I think the more we can get the word out and save more lives, the more important it is.”

McGrath applauded Kunes for publicizing the event, no doubt a dark day in the company’s history, noting the students should learn from employees mistakes.

“They’re great people at Kunes Country,” he said. “Gregg does not do this because he is trying to sell cars, Gregg believes in the program and from what he just said here, you can tell, he wants to make a difference. If he can take his product that he has at his business, and he can make a difference, then he’s going to do that and that’s exactly what he’s doing in three counties.”

Kunes donated three vehicles to the program this year.

“We are here today, because of you,” McGrath said to Kunes.

Overall, this year’s results showed the Walworth County Chapter schools had an average of 98.3 percent seatbelt compliance rate, compared to 97.3 percent last year and 94 percent in 2012.

Catholic Central High School came in at the top with 100 percent compliance. Williams Bay, Badger, Whitewater and Delavan-Darien all had 99 percent compliance. East Troy had 98 percent compliance, Big Foot had 97 percent compliance, and Elkhorn came in with 96 percent compliance.


Placing a priority on safe driving practices

According to McGrath, Operation Click started in 1998 with three high schools and seatbelt compliance rates have increased every year amongst the schools involved with the program.

“Our teen drivers, statistically are not the best drivers, not bad people, just not the best drivers,” he said during Friday’s banquet. “Our goal is to help to lower the number of fatalities and injuries and we’re starting to see some impact here.”

McGrath said if the program is successful, it will essentially go away as safe driving habits are created for teens as they start their driving careers, something they can carry forward with them throughout life.

“If this is program is a success, essentially it could be its own demise as well, and that’d be a good problem to have,” he said. “Walworth County is a phenomenal chapter and you guys know what you’re doing.”

Undersheriff Kurt Picknell from the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department talked to the students about instilling safe-driving habits through an investment of time and repetition.

“How many of you have put your seatbelt on and didn’t even realize you did it,” he said. “That turns into a routine and that gives us the investment that we’re looking for.”

McGrath said in the program’s inception, the biggest concern towards safe teen driving was getting teens to buckle up, although this has changed over the years with the increasing existence of cell phones and the texting ability. McGrath noted although texting and driving is a huge problem nationwide, he would be wrong to simply lecture the teens in attendance, as it is a problem that spans all age groups.

“I’m going to lecture to everybody because if you own a smart phone and a driver license, you are putting everyone else at risk on the road,” he said. “Our eyes need to stay on the road. None of us would ever drive blind…but we’re doing it.”

Captain Scott McClory of the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department speaks to students about the dangers of the four B’s of driving; Booze, Bravado, Belts and Busy. (Photo by Tom Ganser)

      “You represent the best in student leadership in this community,” Captain Scott McClory of the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department said. “You understand the importance of safe driving and have signed the Operation Click contract at the beginning of this school year and your attendance here today shows that you have abided by all of the terms of this contract, which is not an easy thing to do.”

McClory described the four Bs that contribute to traffic fatalities for teenage drivers:  Booze, Bravado, Belts and Busy.

When it comes to Booze, McClory said there’s strong scientific evidence that alcohol consumption reduces reaction time and impairs judgment behind the wheel.

Bravado, according to McClory, means “driving too fast while showing off to your friends.”

“Driving too fast in the snow, or the ice, or the rain or the fog,” he said, continuing on to address the false security of four-wheel drive in snowy and icy conditions.

“You’d be amazed how many upside-down SUVs we’ve had to cover in this county this past winter…slow down, nothing is that important. We always tell our deputies to slow down when responding to any emergency because you can’t help anyone if you, yourself, never made it to the call.”

With respect to Belts, McClory said, “I’ve been in law enforcement for nearly a quarter of a century. I have never, never once, cut a dead person out of seat belt in my life, not one time…the odds of walking away from an otherwise fatal crash increase enormously by always wearing your seatbelt.”

Finally, McClory addressed Busy, the fourth B.

“Studies have proven that the human animal simply cannot successfully complete two divided attention tasks at once behind the wheel. So turn your cell phone off.  Don’t attempt to read a text.  Or send a text.  Or watch a video.  Or try to read your map while driving. Or a book or a magazine.  Or do anything else that takes your mind off concentrating on the road,” he said.

McClory ended his words for students in attendance by asking law enforcement personnel at the gathering to stand, saying with a tremble in his voice, “I only want you to sit down if you have never in your career had to make a traffic death notification.”

“Look around people, everyone in this room has had to do it at least once,” he said becoming increasingly distraught. “For every police officer that stood with me, that’s one son or daughter who doesn’t graduate, doesn’t get to a wedding, doesn’t get to see their kids grow up and have their first grandchild.

“This trend has to stop and it has to start here today with you…please don’t make us do another death notification, please…all of us that wear the badge honor you today and applaud your efforts, but don’t let it end today and don’t let it end at the morgue.”



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