The Eagle River Youth Coalition (ERYC) has been hard at work this winter establishing safe driving strategies for youth in particular, but spreading the word for drivers and passengers of all ages. Hillary Higgins, safe driving coordinator, has been busy meeting with community members and policymakers to keep all roadways safe.
At the end of April, hundreds of students at Eagle Valley High School took place in the annual Safe Driving Fair. First responders really made an impact with their “drunk/high” goggles and the SIDNE go-cart that simulates drunk driving. Actions always speak louder than words, and Higgins believes in the power of having young drivers feel the effects of driving while impaired, in a safe environment.
Vail Health, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, the Colorado State Patrol, Alpine Driving School, and ERYC also had informational tables and activities to encourage smart choices for young people. Young people need to hear — and see — the impacts frequently. The number of youth who report driving while impaired has inched up over the past few years, according to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey. And, some youth still report getting behind the wheel when high or drunk. The stats are alarming: 20 percent of youth got in a car with someone who had a drink; 9 percent reported driving after a drink; 20 percent of youth reported they rode in a car with someone who had used marijuana — which has decreased from 2015.
It’s with an eye on these statistics and befriending youth in the community that makes Higgins want to do more and be involved in decreasing all forms of distracted driving. She’s been meeting with a variety of proponents who are propelling the safe driving mission forward.
“I want young people to know there are choices; that they don’t have to ever get in a car with someone who is impaired. I want them to make smart choices and turn down substances that negatively impact their minds,” Higgins said. “Together with so many activists in our community, we will make a real change towards attitudes and actions.”
With party season in full force, Higgins is sharing her message even more so. “With prom and graduation season right here, I want to remind students how to be safe,” she said. There are alt-prom parties and Project Graduation with Eagle Valley High School and Battle Mountain High School. We encourage parents to talk with their youth about their safe transportation plans during this time of year and to continue to model safe and sober driving habits.
Remember, we are all in this together and one tough conversation could save lives.
The Eagle River Youth Coalition’s mission is to continuously and collaboratively improve the lives of youth in the most powerful ways possible. Through a variety of programs, we strive to positively impact young people’s lives, giving them a voice in our community. Learn about the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, ERYC’s largest data assessment effort administered biennially to middle and high school students, and the “You Told Us” Social Norms campaign. Parents are invited to join the conversation and learn about resources through Eat Chat Parent. Take a minute to learn how we all work together to make youth a community priority.