Foundation formed following teen’s death speaks to young Albury drivers

TAKING NOTE: Albury High year 10 students Chelsea Ehlers, 16, and Ben Jorgensen, 15, took part in workshops with the Blue Datto Foundation. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE
TAKING NOTE: Albury High year 10 students Chelsea Ehlers, 16, and Ben Jorgensen, 15, took part in workshops with the Blue Datto Foundation. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

High incidences of young people involved in road fatalities and serious accidents in Albury has prompted a foundation dedicated to change to come to the region.

The Blue Datto Foundation was formed in 2014, the year 17-year-old Philip Vassallo died in a crash in which both drivers were on red P plates.

His aunty Colleen Vassallo, co-founder, said with funding from the NSW government the foundation could run a new regional roadshow.

“In 2016 we delivered out first Keeping Safe Program and we did about 10 schools,” she said.

“Then last year we did close to 50 including community groups as well.

“We did some research in regards to fatalities and high incidences of road trauma and that’s where we selected Albury-Wodonga and other regional areas.”

Ms Vassallo said the program was designed around using peer mentors such as university students.

“We focus on attitudes, the consequences of being a driver and a passenger, and we try to give them the confidence and skills to help them speak up in unsafe situations,” she said.

“We incorporate police and emergency services in presentations.

“We also ask students to write a pledge about how they will keep themselves and others safe and once a year on their birthday we email them a copy of that pledge for five years.”

The foundation also held a parent program.

Co-ordinator Tegan Arazny said it was about giving parents strategies to have discussions with their children about road safety.

“It’s not just one person’s responsibility,” she said.

Year 10 student Ben Jorgensen, 15, took part in the school workshops and said he was shocked by the statistics about young men in road accidents.

“They said it was something like 80 per cent of fatalities between the ages of 17 to 24 are males,” he said.

Classmate Chelsea Ehlers, 16, who just got her learner licence, said it was important other young people heeded the messages.

“There was a graph about learner drives being the safest drivers, but then once people get their P plates the fatality rate goes straight up,” she said.

A community forum on the issue will be held on Monday February, 26, at the Commercial Club from 6.30pm, with Member for Albury Greg Aplin to be among presenters.