MARION — Williamson County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Murrah and Illinois State Trooper Joey Watson unveiled the logo for the 10th annual Williamson County Traffic Safety Days, which will be in March 2018. The logo honors Thomas Express, a longtime sponsor of the event.
“From the day 10 years ago that we walked into their offices without warning to talk about a “no zone” semi display, the folks as Thomason Express have been 100 percent invested in our efforts to put that information in front of the students of Southern Illinois,” Murrah said.
The folks to whom he refers are Lee and Sue Thomason who own Thomason Express and employees Mike Greeson and Janet Klump.
“Brian and Joey have a tendency to surprise us, and they have done it again,” Lee Thomason, who owns the business with his wife, Sue.
The logo features a vehicle each year, and this year’s choice was a Thomason’s semi and trailer with their logo.
“We established the business in 1980, and we’ve been safety-oriented since we started,” Lee Thomason said.
The couple has four daughters who say their friends’ parents hate big trucks. Lee Thomason believes adults hate driving near trucks because they are unfamiliar with them. Participating in Traffic Safety Days allows Thomason to educate teens, who then share what they learn with their parents.
“I think the parents should sit through the whole thing with their kids,” Sue Thomason said.
“This is our lives. We’ve got to make it as safe as possible,” Lee Thomason said.
Murrah said the first Williamson County Traffic Safety Day was a group effort between the sheriff’s department, Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Transportation, local high schools, first responders and State Farm.
“The very first event was a two-day event that was held for Williamson County students. We were able to squeeze a handful of students from Franklin County in to fill the empty chairs,” Murrah said.
Over two days, around 450 students attended. The event continued to grow each year. The ninth event in March 2017 had an attendance of 1,564 students from 30 high schools in 11 counties.
“Over the 10 years, we have had just over 10,000 students come. The single reason our event has been so successful is the partnership that has grown between the first responders, the schools and our business sponsors,” Murrah said.
Watson, who serves as the District 13 Traffic Safety Education Officer, said the event focuses on choices made behind the wheel and cost of poor choices behind the wheel in the form of crashes, injuries, time lost in traffic jams and, in the worst cases, a death.
“We know we are making a difference in the Lives of Southern Illinoisans,” Watson said.
Students go through nine different presentations at traffic safety days. The variety of topics are chosen through a statistical analysis of crash data because these are the real world problems students will face when they hit the streets as new drivers.
Students are exposed to a variety of topics, which were chosen through a statistical analysis of crash data because these are the real world problems students will face when they hit the streets as new drivers.
“To us, those people (who avoid crashes) are much more than a mark on a spreadsheet. To us, they are our Southern Illinois kids, and we want to try to enforce this and push this into the future,” Watson said. “The schools who drivers ed programs must know we are making a diff as well because they consistently take time out of their busy schedules for educational purposes to send their students to us.”
Murrah said the event works because law enforcement has information the kids need, schools have the students who need the information, and local businesses have resources and the equipment to bring the two together. He added that the three parts must be viewed as equally important.
Lee Thomason wants to remind all drivers that they should not be following too close to semis.
“If anyone in a passenger vehicle cannot see mirrors on a truck, the truck driver cannot see you,” he said.