Teens get driver and passenger safety tips at event

Published: Jul. 15, 2023 at 7:00 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety organization (YOVASO) gave some driving advice during its summer retreat at James Madison University.

Different stations showed student leaders that drivers have a lot of responsibility while operating a vehicle.

“You have to make sure the people in your car are safe, and the people that are driving next to you on the road or the next lane are safe because you don’t know if they might have a baby in the car. You just have to be aware of what’s around you, take precautions,” Sophomore Youth Advisory Council Leader Malik Johnson said.

According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, there have been over 8500 crashes involving a teen driver in the VDOT Staunton District so far this year with 47 fatalities.

Accidents can be caused by not knowing your car, distracted driving, or being under the influence of alcohol and other substances.

“You’d think passengers can’t be that distracting but they are one of the biggest distractions,” Junior Youth Advisory Council Leader Olivia Chattin said.

Malik Johnson echoed the importance of being a good passenger.

“You don’t wanna distract the driver. You don’t want to be drinking or do anything that you shouldn’t be doing because that’s affecting your safety and the driver’s,” he said.

The retreat included student leaders learning about how to check oil in a car and trauma treatment, as well as going through simulations of driving while intoxicated or under the influence of marijuana.

Their data says almost 6,000 crashes involved a teen driver during the 2022 summer season. Young leaders at the retreat know experiences like this can save lives.

“A lot of young drivers can come to YOVASO campaigns, start clubs in interact programs at the school now and teach them with family members. Maybe teachers or other adults how to drive safely,” Johnson said.

The group currently has 110 active schools and youth groups

“I’m really going to push forward to my family my friends always drive safe, no matter the circumstances and don’t be distracted while driving, focus on the road, and all the good stuff,” Chattin said.

YOVASO is Virginia’s Peer-to-Peer Education and Prevention Program for Teen Driver and Passenger Safety; it is a program of VSP and is funded by highway safety grants from the Virginia DMV. Program membership is free and open to all Virginia high schools, middle schools, and youth groups.