Addie Souza is too young to drive, but on Tuesday, the 4-year-old got a crash course in traffic safety.
“I learned not to cross the street when a car is around,” the preschooler said. “And (I learned) if people don’t look, or if they are looking at their newspaper (while driving), they’re going to run over kids who are on their bike or walking.”
Addie was among hundreds of Kaumana Elementary School students who received short presentations from Hilo High School students throughout Tuesday about ways to reduce risky behaviors while on the road.
The presentations were part of the statewide “Stop if You Love Me” campaign, an annual traffic safety effort hosted in partnership with the state Department of Education’s driver education program, DTRIC Insurance and Par Hawaii refinery company.
Hilo High was one of three Big Island schools to participate this year. Others were Keaukaha and Hilo Union elementary schools.
Statewide, students from about 40 schools participated in the campaign in which they led presentations, waved signs to encourage motorists to drive safe and asked parents to sign a pledge to eliminate dangerous road behaviors such as texting, driving intoxicated, speeding and road rage.
The weeklong campaign officially wrapped up Friday. Hawaii Island schools postponed their events because of other activities planned last week.
“Right now, these students are still in preschool, and they don’t really know so much,” said 16-year-old Hilo High student Tarissa Williams. “So I feel like if they learn about it now, they’ll really get the hang of it for when they’re older.”
Hilo High students who led Tuesday’s presentation for preschoolers covered safe pedestrian behaviors such as avoiding texting while walking, looking both ways before crossing the street and staying alert while riding a bike. Presentations became more advanced for older students.
Information from the state Department of Health shows between 2007 and 2011, Hawaii County had a higher motor vehicle crash fatality rate than anywhere else in the state. The Hawaii County rate was 55.6 deaths per 100,000 compared with 54.5 on Kauai, 32.6 on Maui and 12.3 on Oahu.
For Hilo High junior Raylynn Chin-Ragodo, 16, the topic was particularly relevant — she’s currently enrolled in driver’s education and looks to get her driver’s license next month.
“The hardest part about driving is predicting what other drivers will do because not all of them follow signs,” Chin-Ragodo said. “So if you stay alert and be safe and know what you are doing, you can keep from harm.”
“I hope these students learn how to be safe on the road because there are unsafe drivers out there,” she added. “We want them to have an understanding of how to be safe for when they do start driving and help them know how to be careful.”
Email Kirsten Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.