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YOLO Pedestrian Safety Campaign Wins National Awards

June 10, 2015

The YOLO (You Only Live Once) pedestrian safety campaign, which was created after the death of a 15-year-old Germantown high school student has won first place in the Promotional Campaigns under $100,000 category, and also won best in show at the National Association of Government Communicators Blue Pencil and Gold Screen Awards banquet in Memphis this past weekend. The YOLO campaign also won an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties.

   “Through the YOLO campaign, high school students are making a difference by educating one another to put their devices away and stay alert before crossing the street,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett. “By reaching more than 16,000 students and adults through this campaign, we hope they are more aware of the potentially deadly consequences of distracted walking and driving. It just takes one mistake to cause lifelong consequences.”

   The YOLO campaign, which was kicked off back in September 2014 at Seneca Valley High School, was created by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation to reduce pedestrian collisions amongst high school students following the death of 15-year-old Christina Morris-Ward. She was a student at Seneca Valley High School in Germantown and in October 2012 was struck and killed as she distractedly crossed the street on her way to school.

   Each year more than 400 crashes involving pedestrians occur on Montgomery County roadways. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, teens ages 15 through 19 make up half of all underage pedestrian fatalities. And in Montgomery County, when pedestrians are found at fault in collisions, they are most often teens in this age group. Many teens take undue risks when crossing the street, or they walk while distracted by texting, playing handheld games, listening to music, or talking on the phone.

   "I’m very proud that NACo has chosen to recognize the innovative YOLO (You Only Live Once) campaign that is helping to improve pedestrian safety for high school students," said MCDOT Acting Director Al Roshdieh.  “Our Safe Routes to Schools Coordinator, Nadji Kirby, who developed the program, is making a real difference in reducing collisions near both public and private schools. The very innovative YOLO campaign is just one of the ways that our Traffic Engineering and Operations staff and others in MCDOT are successfully improving pedestrian safety throughout the County.”

   The campaign includes a toolkit which will be distributed to every high school in the county. Inside the toolkit is an assortment of campaign posters, static clings to go on restroom mirrors, and a USB drive with other digital resources. The program hopes to use social media, especially Twitter, to remind teens to be aware while crossing potentially dangerous intersections by hi-jacking the slang acronym YOLO which has often been a rallying cry for participation in unsafe or unwise behavior and reminding teens that they do in-fact only life once.

   The posters which all feature a teenager with tire tracks across part of their face have taglines which the creators hope will resonate with teens, such as, "If you text, you're next," or "That song is to die for" and "A smart phone can man you do stupid things" and, "Don't be caught dead wearing black." The taglines hope to hit home with teens not to have earbuds in their ears, and not to wear dark clothing early on winter mornings, and don't text or read Twitter or Facebook as you walk to and from school. 

   “Following Christina’s death, I was moved by the leadership shown by Tina’s friends and by our community,” said Seneca Valley Principal Marc Cohen at the YOLO kickoff event in September. “We are incredibly excited to see students and members of our community working together to address these pedestrian safety issues head on.”  Cohen said the students at Seneca Valley are helping their friends be safe, by wearing reflective gear on their backpacks, by dressing in brighter clothing in the mornings, especially as it gets darker. Students have also begun to remind peers turn off music and take earbuds out of their ears as they are crossing the street. “Our kids have shown tremendous pride in the efforts they have taken to address this issue.

 

Captions: Seneca Valley Principal Marc Cohen speaking at the launch of the YOLO pedestrian safety campaign at Seneca Valley High School in September 2014.

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