- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Teens shown

consequences

of drunk driving

BURNT CHIMNEY, Va. — Kendra Bush saw what could happen to a teenager involved in a motor-vehicle crash.



In a role-playing exercise, 16-year-old Kendra pretended that one of her legs was broken and that the other was amputated above the knee. She wore a brace around her neck to hold up her head. Mock meals were served intravenously.

Simple tasks, such as tying a shoelace, became a challenge because contractures prevented her fingers from bending.

Kendra’s experience in a rehabilitation center was part of a hands-on crash investigation for teens Sunday at the Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO) summer leadership retreat at Smith Mountain Lake.

“The mock crash makes a statement,” said Patrick Gevas, a YOVASO intern and student at George Mason University. “Our ultimate goal is to save lives.”

Kendra and 65 other teens from Southwest Virginia spent the weekend at the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center in workshops and recreational activities.

For the mock crash scene, stations were set up to illustrate the impact of a scenario in which four teenagers crashed an automobile. State troopers used the Breathalyzer device to test the teens’ alcohol levels.

An emergency medical services crew from Carilion Health System put one teenage girl on a stretcher and loaded her into an ambulance.

Somber attendants from Flora Funeral Service in Rocky Mount, Va., talked with groups of teens in the same way they would talk to a family that just lost a loved one. In the jail, mug shots and fingerprints were taken.

“It really makes you think,” said Katrina Craddock, another YOVASO intern. She attends Virginia Western Community College and said she wants to be a state trooper.

Miss Craddock said she thinks it is important for teens to realize the effects of drinking and driving and not wearing safety belts.

“We arm them with statistics and knowledge,” Mr. Gevas said.

YOVASO’s commitment does not end there.

“We are always here to help,” Mr. Gevas said of YOVASO’s year-round commitment to the teens.

The activities also gave teens ideas for future projects.

YOVASO Program Director Jessica Bland said: “We train kids to plan mock crashes at their own schools.”

Mr. Gevas said it is a challenge to keep teens interested, so the organization works hard to stay in touch with what is important to young people.

Kendra, president of the chapter at William Byrd High School in Vinton, Va., is working with YOVASO as an intern. “I give good youth input.”

YOVASO was formed in 2001 because of a dramatic increase in teenage crash fatalities. High schools all over Southwest Virginia have chapters. This year, YOVASO will expand from a regional program and become statewide.

“It has been neat to see it grow,” said Miss Bland, who has been with the organization since it began. “We definitely still have work to do.”

YOVASO is a partnership of Carilion Health System and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

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