HARRISONBURG – State Farm is making a major contribution to young driver and passenger safety in Virginia through a grant recently awarded to Youth of Virginia Speak Out (YOVASO), a program of the Virginia State Police (VSP).
The $60,000 grant will help fund a variety of interactive programs that educate Virginia’s youth about the everyday risks they face in a motor vehicle and how to minimize those risks. The funding will also support youth-led prevention efforts in schools and communities across the commonwealth.
“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in Virginia and nationwide,” explained Mary King, YOVASO program manager. “Through our partnership with Virginia State Police and State Farm, we will be able to combine resources to expand the types of safety programs that better reach and engage our youth. We know that students like learning through interactive, hands-on experiences and by engaging with their peers, and these are the programs we will be working to expand during the upcoming school year.”
Through the State Farm grant, YOVASO plans to purchase additional equipment to support the Distracted and Impaired Driving simulator program and the ScanEd Physics of a Crash program currently provided in partnership with VSP. Both programs are available to Virginia schools and allow students to see and experience the dangers of texting and driving, driving impaired, speeding, driving with too many passengers, and failing to buckle up. Troopers work directly with students during both programs and are able to share their experiences working young driver-related crashes and their expertise on driving defensively.
Funding will also be used to expand the peer-led “Save Your Tailgate, Buckle Up, Slow Down” and “Arrive Alive, Txt Later, Buckle Up Now” campaigns available to Virginia schools. The “Save Your Tailgate” campaign is offered in the fall to increase seat belt use among youth and the “Arrive Alive” campaign is offered in the spring to remind youth to drive safely and responsibly during the high-risk warm weather months. Training opportunities to prepare youth to lead the peer-to-peer campaigns will also be funded under the State Farm grant.
“Part of State Farm’s mission is to help people manage the risks of everyday life.We are committed to preventing teen driver crashes through multifaceted and interactive educational opportunities such as those provided by YOVASO and the Virginia State Police,” said Kate Beadle, State Farm spokesperson.
Representatives from State Farm awarded the check to YOVASO and VSP last week during the annual Summer Leadership Retreat in Harrisonburg. Over 160 students and school advisors attended the retreat to train as youth traffic safety advocates and to action plan prevention strategies for their schools during the upcoming school year.
YOVASO is funded by the Virginia DMV Highway Safety Office and has been in existence since 2001. Its mission is to engage, educate, and empower youth to influence a safe driving culture through leadership development and innovative outreach programs. YOVASO is a service-learning and project-based learning program and is available at no cost to all Virginia high and middle schools and youth-serving organizations. For more information about YOVASO, the Distracted and Impaired Driving simulator program, or the ScanEd Physics of a Crash program, visit www.yovaso.org and click on resources or contact the office at (540) 375-9581.