Wednesday, October 21, 2015

National Teen Driver Safety Week gets support from local organizations

National Teen Driver Safety Week began on Sunday the 18th and lasts until Saturday the 24th.

The safety week is aimed at bringing awareness to teens of the various driving distractions.

Colorado state patrol troopers follow 5 to Drive rules for young adults that highlight the distractions that teens need to avoid while behind the wheel.

The 5 rules include no drinking and driving, always buckle up, no texting and driving, no speeding and no more than one passenger at a time.

Alexa's Hugs, a local organization that promotes seat belt use among teenagers, is supporting Teen Driver Safety week while working with 11 schools on an annual seat belt challenge

Tad Johnson and his wife Jona Johnson started the organization in honor of his 19-year-old daughter, Alexa Johnson, who died in a rollover accident on Feb. 10, 2013 near Longmont.

She was not wearing her seat belt when the accident occurred.

"She was always there for anybody and everybody," Boss, who met and became friends with Alexa during their sophomore year, said. "She was always laughing, always trying to make people laugh, she was a good listener."

Jona said the organization's seat belt challenge uses a group of high schoolers from each participating school to work on spreading vehicle safety messages to their peers. The challenge, which runs through the year, compares the number of people wearing seat belts exiting the school parking lot at the beginning of the year and then again at the end of the school year.

"At this point in the year, we are just getting geared up," Jona said. "The kids have been getting us their seat belt observation numbers. We also do an observation. ... Then we do a final observation in April to compare numbers. The kids then have a chance to do awards and things."

Jona said Alexa's Hugs is now collaborating with Safe Kids Larimer County — who recently applied and received a grant for teen driver education from CDOT.

Within a couple of months Northern Colorado parents will have the chance to take a free two-hour class covering Colorado's graduated driver laws.

She said along with a variety of guest speakers, parents will receive a manual and other resources to manage their child's driving.

As she and Tad work on furthering their reach in teen driver safety, Jona said this movement gives them a reason to speak Alexa's name every day and make sure her influence did not end the day she died.

Jona said she received a text from Boss after Thursday's accident. It began, "Jona, it's Carissa. I'm texting you because I'm alive."

"That's why we do this every day, because she got to go home and her mom got to hug her," Jona said. "We got the opposite call, we got the knock on the door. (Carissa's text) message was amazing. It took my breath away — then I just cried and cried. Happy tears, because it's just one that we can say 'yay' it's a success story, it's the best kind of success story."

The Johnsons, through Alexa's Hugs, hand out inch-wide ribbon seat belt wraps stamped with labels that say "Alexa's Hugs. Buckle Up. Every Time" as a reminder to teens to drive safely.