When I found out I was selected for the Lifesavers Conference Traffic Safety Scholarship, I was ecstatic! Sunny California in the middle of dreary, Pittsburgh April was a dream come true. For four years now, I have been working in the world of traffic safety. I got involved in 2012 when my brother’s best friend was killed in a motorcycle crash; the crash was the result of carelessness and alleged distraction. From that moment forward, I knew that I needed to get involved. I did that by hosting a day-long conference called Y.I.E.L.D. (Youth Involved Education of Legal Drivers) in Pittsburgh, PA for high school students and advisors to learn about the dangers of distracted driving. Through this original program, I came upon SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions.) A year later I was honored to accept a position on the SADD National Student Leadership Council and then the following year, the 2014-2015 SADD National Student of the Year. Traffic safety has become my passion and potentially, a part of my career.
The opportunity to attend Lifesavers meant that I could continue my involvement in traffic safety efforts even into my college education. Lifesavers proved to be a learning opportunity, a place to connect with professionals from a variety of domains, and a chance to celebrate the work that traffic safety advocates are doing all across the country. It was just what I was looking for. I attended daily workshops, general sessions, and celebratory events during my three days at Lifesavers.
Workshops spanned many topics, which meant attendees could experience all sides of traffic safety. For example, I attended a workshop called, “Welcome to the Party! Designer Drugs, Stash Compartments, Logos, Drug Clothing & More” about how EDM (Electronic Dance Music) culture is often intertwined with drug use and subsequently, how drug use at these events translates into issues such as drugged driving or transportation of illegal substances. I typically think that I am a fairly well informed person, but this workshop was my favorite of all those I attended as I had never heard the things presented! Other workshops included topics such as the effective program, “Towards Zero Deaths” in Minnesota, advances in car technology that allow for safer driving, and even a mock trial to show how distracted driving cases are handled in a courtroom. Each workshop gave its own unique perspective on how various efforts are making strides in traffic safety and gave me wonderful ideas of how to continue to advocate for traffic safety in my community.
Lastly, I had the chance to present my own workshop about school policies that are working to promote safer driving among young people. I talked about Y.I.E.L.D., my recent internship in the Impaired Drivers Division at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and working with SADD to create programs that are geared towards high school students to promote safer decisions and all around healthier students. It was an amazing opportunity to present at a national conference alongside researchers and other experts. I was honored to represent SADD and all youth to give young people a voice in traffic safety. Again and again, it was stressed at Lifesavers, along with at NHTSA, that traffic safety is a growing field that more young people should be involved in. At Lifesavers, I felt that I had the opportunity to learn more about what traffic safety really means. As I continue to define what my career will be, traffic safety will remain an important part of who I am. Thank you to the Lifesavers Committee for granting me this scholarship and the opportunity to keep learning and growing just as all those involved in traffic safety continue to learn and grow from each other!