Virginia Youth Train to become traffic safety advocates


 Nearly 100 teens representing 30 high and middle schools from across the commonwealth will be arriving at James Madison University (JMU) Monday (June 19) for a week of educational and hands-on activities that focus on safe driving practices and the importance of making responsible decisions while driving. The 2017 Summer Leadership Retreat is sponsored by Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO) and the Virginia State Police (VSP), and is funded by a grant from the Virginia DMV Highway Safety Office.

The annual leadership retreat is being held on the JMU campus in Harrisonburg, Va., from June 19 through June 22. High school students and their YOVASO club advisors (approximately 141 registered) will spend the week learning about how to reduce crash risks, studying negative consequences of poor driving behaviors, and training to serve as youth traffic safety advocates. Participants will use the information to work in peer-to-peer programs in the schools to promote safe teen driving and help prevent motor vehicle crashes among teens.

A variety of interactive, team-building events are also planned, to include a Lip Sync Battle, talent show, Comedy Sportz with a traffic safety emphasis, and the Amazing Race around the globe. The four-day retreat concludes with an awards banquet to recognize students, schools, administrators, law enforcement, and business partners for their dedicated and outstanding efforts in 2016 and 2017 to prevent teen-related traffic crashes and fatalities on Virginia highways.

“What many don’t realize is that the number one killer of teenagers is motor vehicle crashes, and peer-to-peer communication is a very effective way to combat this nationwide problem,” said Sarah Westphal, YOVASO Marketing and Training Specialist. “The YOVASO Summer Leadership Retreat offers youth an opportunity to help build their knowledge about traffic safety, prepare them to work in their peer-to-peer clubs to promote safe driving behaviors, collaborate with other students across the state, and further enhance their leadership skills to contribute to their schools and communities.”

YOVASO is Virginia’s peer-to-peer education and prevention program for teen driver and passenger safety. The program is part of the Virginia State Police and is funded by a grant from the Virginia DMV Highway Safety Office.  YOVASO has existed since 2001 and works with high and middle schools across the commonwealth to deliver safe driving and passenger safety programs for youth and teens. Virginia Schools Represented at YOVASO Retreat: Northside High School (Roanoke County) and Salem High School (Salem).


-Submitted by Sarah Westphal, Retreat Director

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