HARRISONBURG, Va. (WFXR) — We’re within the deadliest 100 days for teen crashes in Virginia.
One organization called Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO) is doing its part to make sure students know how to drive safely.

From July 13 through 16, YOVASO held its annual leadership retreat at James Madison University. Organizers said the event has been held since 2001. This year, the theme was “Driving Through the Decades Toward a Safer Future.”

The three-day event included hands-on learning to teach high school students the importance of being a safe driver and doing it soberly.

“Students participated in our outdoor activities, where they got to get behind the wheel of our instructive driving simulator. We had Drive Wmart Virginia here where they got to do a peddle cart learning about distractive driving as well,” said Casey Taylor, the Program Development Coordinator for YOVASO.

Many other organizations were also involved in the retreat including the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). YOVASO organizers also shared a retreat invitation to motivational speakers. They say the message they gave was an important one for drivers of all ages.

“If you start to be careless, think of somebody that’s in the next vehicle. That’s someone’s son, mother, sister, girlfriend. So, it’s very important to think of others,” said Molly Jackson, the marketing and training coordinator for YOVASO and the retreat director.

Jackson said her thought process when planning the event was to hold stations that not only promoted leadership but traffic safety as well.

On July 16, YOVASO held a banquet to hand out awards to students and people in the community who have done work to promote the organization’s mission. One student who won an award shared the different things she was able to do through the organization.

“I planned a lot of our big events. We had a mock crash set up in our school’s parking lot. We also had a tailgate with Virginia State Police, Bedford Fire Department, and sheriff’s office,” said Allyson Long, YOVASO’S Rock Star award winner.

Long goes to Liberty High School in Bedford and believes the mission is everyone can and should be a part of the organization’s mission to help teens stay safe on the road.

“Get involved at your school, like encourage other students. Talk to other students about safe driving, and join your school’s YOVASO,” she said.

WFXR‘s Creative Services Director, Gabriel Luna, also won an award for his work with the organization. He worked to create ads and videos for YOVASO and its traffic safety initiatives. While the organization was on Tiktok, organizers say Luna helped them create three videos that reached over one million impressions.