LOUISA COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Two schools in Louisa County are participating in a program to promote safe and responsible driving for teens during the holidays. It's called Steer into the New Year, Drive Responsibly.
That's the theme for this year's holiday campaign kicking off in December that is sponsored by Youth of Virginia Speak Out, or YOVASO, and the Virginia State Police.
It's an effort to reduce teen fatalities during the holiday season, a time of year that is high-risk for young drivers.
"Last year in Virginia, our teen drivers aged 15 to 20 were involved in 16 fatal crashes during the month of December, a significant increase over December 2015 when six teen driver-involved fatal crashes occurred," said Mary King, YOVASO's program manager.
She adds the 16 fatal crashes in 2016 killed ten teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 and two teen passengers who were 16 and 18. Another teen passenger was killed in a separate crash that involved an older driver.
Louisa County High and Louisa County Middle schools are among the dozens of schools across Virginia participating in the program this year.
The campaign focuses on peer-to-peer influence. Students take the lead in signing an online safe driving pledge and sharing that pledge with classmates, friend and loved ones they would like to keep safe during the holidays.
Students can also design traffic safety floats for community holiday parades, decorate school halls with traffic safety messages, make safety-themed ornaments for a school holiday tree, and reach out to classmates and peers on social media to encourage them to be safe.
"The majority of teen fatalities last December occurred after school released for the holidays," said Casey Taylor, YOVASO program development coordinator. "So we need to begin now and continuously remind teens throughout the holidays of the critical rules for safe driving."
This year's goal is to have every teen get back to school safely in January.
YOVASO has a few tips to help keep drivers safe, including always buckling up, slowing down and obeying speed limits, avoiding distraction like cell phones, limiting teen passengers, and celebrating responsibly without drugs or alcohol.
Participating schools will get a kit including activity ideas, teen driving facts and statistics, holiday safety posters, winter driving tip cards, safe driving pledge banners, ice scrapers and more to help promote safe driving.
For more information or to sign up your school to participate, call Taylor at (540) 375-3596 or click on the link in the Related Links box.