Safe driving campaign kicks off as Virginia saw a 56% increase in fatal teen crashes last year

Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 6:09 PM EDT
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BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - A statewide teen safe driving campaign kicked off this week in Virginia. Liberty High School is one of Virginia’s schools that is participating in the ‘Drive for Change: Buckle Up and Slow Down’ campaign.

Students and teachers at LHS did a parking lot survey Friday morning to find out how many teen drivers were wearing their seatbelt. 25% of teens weren’t buckled in.

One LHS student explained why she’s working to educate other teens to drive safe on the road.

“Before joining the organization, Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO), I didn’t really care for driving the speed limit or wearing my seat belt,” Kianna Meadows said. “It wasn’t that important until I joined YOVASO, and seeing how it impacted others and saved so many lives really inspired me.”

Meadows is now on the leadership team for Liberty High School’s YOVASO chapter. The organization encourages other teen drivers to buckle up and slow down.

YOVASO’s teacher sponsor at LHS explained why it’s important to educate his students.

“Our club is the only club that can save your life,” Ben Thurman said. “If you listen to what we say you stand a better chance at living to the next day, showing up to school and to living your full life.”

The three month campaign comes after Virginia saw a 56% increase in teen fatalities while driving from 2020 to 2021. Parents like Tammy Gweedo McGee are passionate about getting the safe driving message out to teens and their families.

“The one thing that you don’t think is ever going to happen, happened to us unfortunately,” Gweedo McGee said.

Gweedo McGee lost her 16-year-old son, Connor, in a car accident on Homecoming night. She now advocates across the Commonwealth for safe teen driving campaigns.

“If you get a few teenagers to buy into that process, they talk to another teenager and it is a natural inherit power that they have when they speak with other teenagers to influence them and to influence proper driving behavior,” Gweedo McGee said.

Students, teachers and parents are working to try and decrease the number of fatal accidents teens have on the road.

“I’ll never be able to hug my son again, he will not come back,” Gweedo McGee said. “But what we can do, is we can take his tragedy to help others.”

More than 60% of Virginia teens who died in a car accidents last year weren’t wearing a seatbelt.