During the county commissioners’ regular meeting last week, members of the Richland County 4-H Youth Safety Council and Judy Villard Overocker, extension educator at the Ohio State University Extension, discussed their efforts to promote youth safety. In addition, the commissioners passed a proclamation declaring the week of April 27 – May 3 as Richland County Youth Safety Awareness Week.

An upcoming event the youth safety council is helping organize is the Richland County Mock Crash, which will be held May 1. The Mock Crash will be held from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Richland County Fairgrounds. Youth from area high schools will witness a mock crash depicting the consequences of underage drinking and driving during prom season. 

Villard Overocker said they are expecting 1,262 juniors and seniors from nine area high schools to attend the event. Just over 39,000 students have witnessed the county mock crash since its beginning in 1989, she said.

“Before this program started, there were multiple teen fatalities during the months of May and early June,” she said. “And we have not had a teen fatality during that time since 1989.”

The unique part of the county program is that it involves local students. “They take a key role in the planning of the program,” Villard Overocker said.

Christy Reynolds, student and member of the youth safety council, said of the mock crash, “I definitely think it has an impact on a lot of people and makes them think that it could happen to anybody.”

During the reading of the proclamation, Commissioner Tim Wert shared some alarming statistics: in the U.S. 7 out of 10 teen crashes happen from May to September; 62 percent of teen vehicular crash fatalities are not buckled in; 70 percent of teen vehicular crash deaths are passengers of teen drivers; and 16 teens die daily in vehicular crashes across the U.S.

Youth safety awareness week will lead into National Teen Driver Safety Month in May.

“We just want kids to be safe,” Villard Overocker said.

I'm a native of Mansfield. In 2010, I graduated from Ontario High School and then attended OSU-Mansfield, where I majored in English. I'm glad to be able to use my degree in a field that I enjoy.