Driver Awareness Day, April 6, will encourage safety for pedestrians and drivers

Liberty University’s Criminal Justice Club will partner with the Virginia State Police to host Driver Awareness Day April 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Thomas Road Baptist Church parking lot.

The event is open to the public and will include a distracted driver simulation, 18-wheeler simulator, a child safety seatbelt check and driver safety demonstrations involving seat belt safety and distracted driving. Virginia State Troopers, the Lynchburg City Fire and EMS, the Lynchburg City Police Department and the Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO) club at Heritage High School will also be there, among other local groups. Criminal Justice Club President Angelique Cushman, Vice President Felix Hernandez and Virginia State Trooper Brad Crews have been heading up this initiative.

Crews, who has been involved with the Criminal Justice Club for multiple years, came to speak to the group in October to share his passion for driver awareness. The club partnered with Crews to form Driver Awareness Day, with the intention of increasing driver safety and awareness on Liberty’s campus and in the city of Lynchburg.

This awareness is twofold. 

“We want to bring awareness to what’s going on inside the car, and … also what’s going on outside the car,” Cushman said. “(What) I see … happens a lot, especially with our generation, is not only do we drive distracted, but we walk around distracted as pedestrians.”

Cushman would specifically like to make Liberty students more aware of traffic safety, hoping to prevent accidents from happening in the first place.

“We’ve witnessed some amazing miracles here on campus, and a lot of that is the healing of the people who have been in these accidents, but the fact that these accidents have occurred in the first place is something that is awful to see every time,” Cushman said.

While Liberty has been trying to regulate traffic safety by adding a new roundabout, as well as making a more direct, pedestrian-only path through campus, Cushman believes safety will improve as students become more aware of their role in traffic safety.

“Our goal is to face it more towards the students,” Cushman said. “We work as closely to LUPD as we can, … and we see what they have been doing, … but change has to come from both sides of the road, and we see change happening with the construction. We see that they’re trying to make the best changes they can, and we think it’s time for action on the other side of the road from the students.”

Heritage High School’s YOVASO club is also taking action.

“What we try to do is educate people about traffic safety, and we try to promote traffic safety in our school,” club advisor Stacy
Preston said. 

These are the goals of the club at Heritage, which is run by Preston and the school resource officer Gerwin Thompson. The club is made up of over 40 high school students. 

YOVASO is participating in the Arrive Alive campaign, put on by the YOVASO organization from March 18 through May 3. This campaign focuses on keeping teenagers safe while driving, specifically during the spring and summer months when teen driving accidents increase. 

YOVASO students and leaders will be present at Driver Awareness Day in April and will have Arrive Alive materials available for more information.

“I think this is a huge event,” Cushman said. “It’s something that can start a huge change in the community, and this might not just end here.”

Governor’s proposal

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is amending a bill that would ban Virginia motorists from holding a cell phone while driving in a highway work zone. The proposal means that holding a cell phone would be cause for a traffic stop and $250 fine. 

The proposed legislation would not go into effect until 2020 to allow for a public education campaign and the training of law enforcement officers. The amended legislation will go back to lawmakers on April 3 and will require a simple majority in the House and Senate to pass. Sen. Richard Stuart said the proposal already has the support of a majority of senators.


Distracted driving leads to 1.6 million crashes per year, according to The National Safety Council. 

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