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YOVASO group continues outreach

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Focus of event is impact of traffic fatalities on others

By John Barnhart

    A YOVASO (Youth of Virginia Speak Out) presentation this month at Jefferson Forest High School (JFHS) focused on the impact a teen traffic fatality has on the teen’s friends and family. YOVASO is an organization that promotes safe driving behavior among teens.

    Videos were part on the presentation and one featured J. Len Hale.
    Hale’s 16-year-old son, Joshua Hale, was behind the wheel when he and three friends were killed in a crash on Diamond Hill Road in 2005. The young Hale wasn’t speeding,  but  he  made  a   mistake while coming around a curve.
    He may have been distracted as he had more teen passengers in the car with him than a driver his age is allowed to have. Nobody knows, but the elder Hale said that they do know that one wheel of his son’s car went off the pavement — he recalls looking at the spot after his son’s death. In his effort to get back on the road, Joshua overcorrected and that sent him across the other lane and directly in front of a dually hauling a trailer loaded with logs.
    Hale described his loss—how close he and his son were. He went over the life experiences that none of the teens in that car will ever get to experience, ranging from high school graduation to starting families of their own.
    The students at the YOVASO event also heard from a peer.
    Adam Daponte is a Staunton River High School student. November was a tough month for him because of fatal traffic accidents that struck the school’s student body. It started with attending a visitation for a teammate who was killed in a crash. Then, his girlfriend, Ashley Barton was killed in a separate accident.
    She had been at his place the night of her death. Daponte recalled that evening as Barton prepared to drive home.
    “The last thing I told her was, ‘I love you, be safe, text me when you get home,” Daponte told the assembly.
    “I never got a text,” he said.
    Instead, he got a hysterical phone call from his girlfriend’s sister, telling him about the accident.
    Zach Coleman, another teen speaker, serves on the Forest Volunteer Fire Department and has worked a number of crashes.
    “I don’t like to come up on a car I know,” he said.
    “It’s kind of a hard feeling,” he said later, "because you know everybody in it.”
    Coleman urged his audience to wear their seatbelts and get enough sleep at night.
    The program closed with Corporal Ryan Hilbish, the school resource officer.
    “Guys, I have been to those motor vehicle accidents and they are no fun at all,” he commented.