RICHMOND, Va., (WRIC) – “Steer Into The New Year, Drive Responsibly” is the theme of a statewide holiday campaign kicking off this December at Virginia schools to keep teen drivers and passengers safe during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The campaign, being sponsored by Youth of Virginia Speak Out (YOVASO) and the Virginia State Police, is an effort to reduce teen fatalities during what has become a high-risk period for young drivers.
“Last year in Virginia our teen drivers aged 15-20 were involved in 16 fatal crashes during the month of December, a significant increase over December 2015 when 6 teen driver-involved fatal crashes occurred”, according to Mary King, YOVASO’s program manager. King said the 16 fatal crashes in December 2016 claimed the lives of 10 teen drivers ranging in ages from 16 to 20 and two teen passengers, ages 16 and 18. King noted that one additional teen passenger was killed in a separate crash involving an older driver, bringing the total to 13 for the number of teen drivers and passengers killed in December 2016.
To get teen drivers and passengers to change behaviors and be safer this holiday season, the “Steer Into The New Year” campaign will focus on peer-to-peer influence. Students at participating schools will take the lead in signing an online safe driving pledge and share the pledge with classmates, friends and loved ones they want to keep safe during the holidays. The pledge can be signed online at yovaso.org. Students will also design traffic safety floats for community Christmas parades, deck the school halls with traffic safety messaging, make safety-themed ornaments for the school holiday tree, and reach out on social media to influence their classmates and peers to be safe drivers and passengers. Messaging will also be shared with parents of teens to encourage them to monitor their teen’s driving and discuss rules for the holidays.
“The majority of teen fatalities last December occurred after schools released for the holidays,” said Casey Taylor, YOVASO Program Development Coordinator, “so we need to begin now and continuously remind teens throughout the holidays of the critical rules for safe driving.” Taylor emphasized that the goal of this year’s campaign is “for every teen to arrive safely back at school in January 2018.”
Important Tips for Holiday Driving:
• Always Buckle Up
• Slow Down and Obey Speed Limits
• Avoid Distractions, including putting away phones and all electronics
• Limit Teen Passengers
• Celebrate Responsibly without Drugs and/or Alcohol
All Virginia high schools are encouraged to participate in the “Steer Into The New Year” campaign and can do so by registering at yovaso.org . Middle schools may also register. Schools that register will receive a Holiday Safety Campaign Kit to include: activity ideas, teen driving facts and statistics, holiday safety posters, winter driving tip cards, safe driving pledge banners, ice scrapers, and other resources to promote safe driving this high-risk period. To learn more about the Holiday Safety Campaign, “Steer into the New Year,” call Casey Taylor, YOVASO Program Development Coordinator at 540-375-3596. There is no set timeframe to compete campaign activities so registration will remain open throughout the holidays.
YOVASO is Virginia’s peer-to-peer education and prevention program for teen driver and passenger safety. Through YOVASO, teens work to advocate for safer driving among their peers and to develop positive prevention strategies for their schools and communities. The program, which currently has 100 active member schools, is administered by the Virginia State Police and funded through grants from the Virginia DMV Highway Safety Office. Membership in YOVASO is free and open to all Virginia high schools and middle schools.
Schools Currently Registered in the 2017 “Steer Into the New Year—Drive Responsibly” Holiday Safety Campaign:
Amherst County High School, Amherst Co.
Appomattox County High School, Appomattox Co.
Auburn Middle School, Montgomery Co.
Bluestone High School, Mecklenburg Co.
Boushall Middle School, Richmond City
Cave Spring High School, Roanoke Co.
Cave Spring Middle School, Roanoke Co.
Christiansburg High School, Montgomery Co.
Colonial Beach High School, Westmoreland Co.
Colonial Forge High School, Stafford Co.
Drew Middle School, Stafford Co.
Eastern Montgomery High School, Montgomery Co.
Floyd County High School, Floyd Co.
Fort Defiance High School, Augusta Co.
Galileo Magnet High School, Danville City
George Wythe High School, Richmond City
Glenvar High School, Roanoke Co.
Halifax County High School, Halifax Co.
Heritage High School, Lynchburg City
Liberty High School, Bedford Co.
Louisa County High School, Louisa Co.
Louisa County Middle School, Louisa Co.
Luray High School, Page Co.
Magna Vista High School, Henry Co.
Mountain View High School, Stafford Co.
Narrows High School, Giles Co.
Page County High School, Page Co.
Page County Middle School, Page Co.
Park View High School, Mecklenburg Co.
Patriot High School, Prince William Co.
Poquoson High School, Poquoson City
Powhatan High School, Powhatan Co.
Randolph-Henry High School, Charlotte Co.
Read Mountain Middle School, Botetourt Co.
Rodney Thompson Middle School, Stafford Co.
Tazewell High School, Tazewell Co.
Tazewell Middle School, Tazewell Co.
Walker-Grant Middle School, Fredericksburg City
Other Organizations Participating:
Bristol’s Promise, Washington Co.
Virginia Tech, Montgomery Co.
Radford University, Radford City