Yelm FFA members set out to educate students about the dangers of distracted or impaired driving and how to stay focused behind the wheel.
Old habits die hard. And sometimes, bad driving habits are the last to go. With initiative and ingenuity, Yelm FFA members in Washington set out to educate students and the community about the dangers of distracted or impaired driving, and how to stay focused while behind the wheel.
Project Tornado: Destroying Bad Driving Habits! provided creative ways to both increase awareness of bad driving habits and help community members improve their driving behaviors. Focusing on predrivers, current drivers and experienced drivers, the program targeted students from Yelm High School, Yelm Middle School, Ridgeline Middle School and the community at large.
“The experience has been life-changing on a personal level for me,” said Alex Heid, vice president of the Yelm FFA Chapter. “Last year, two students were involved in a near-fatal car accident just before we launched the campaign. It alerted us all about bad driving habits. I improved my habits because of this program, and I only hope others will too.”
The project was funded through a $2,000 Project Ignition grant sponsored by State Farm Insurance. The grant helped Yelm FFA implement eight different activities for the project, in which more than 250 students participated.
“It’s nice to have the support of State Farm and the community,” Carissa Corrigan, Yelm FFA Chapter president said. “When they saw what we were trying to do, they wanted to help us reach our goals.”
Project Tornado provided a course where community members drove golf carts while wearing impaired-vision goggles, simulating bad habits such as drinking and driving and sending text messages while behind the wheel.
The committee also designed and distributed 1,500 antenna balls, 2,000 silicone wristbands and 1,000 fortune cookies with safe-driving messages inside. These items were handed out over the year at two football games, three all-school assemblies, Christmas in the Park, and a booth set up during National Teen Driver Safety Week.
And not to leave out the future drivers of America, elementary school students from kindergarten through sixth grade participated with a coloring contest.
The Project Ignition grant also helped fund an instructional DVD that Yelm FFA members and advisors wrote, filmed and narrated themselves. The DVD was given to 17 drivers’ education programs throughout Thurston County to ensure that the next generations of drivers would learn safe driving methods.
“I’ve never seen a project that had more student buy-in,” Yelm FFA advisor Matt Mounts said. “Students were actually pushing advisors to work harder and help grow the program. FFA members took ownership and made it all it could be.”
The Yelm FFA chapter won the 2010 National Chapter Model of Innovation Award in Community Development.