North Thurston teens ask others to drive safely

Club reminds texting, drunken driving are needless risks

Staff writerMarch 20, 2013 

  • PRESENTATIONS

    The parents of students who attend North Thurston High School and staff members are invited to attend a distracted driving and teen alcohol and impaired driving presentation Thursday. The presentation begins at 2:15 p.m. in room 102.

A group of jumping, screaming North Thurston High School students bundled up Tuesday afternoon to do their part in reminding drivers not to text and drive or get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol.

The students, members of the school’s Rams in Action Club, lined the intersection of Sleater-Kinney Road and Martin Way shouting at cars while holding signs during rush-hour traffic.

“They were just getting everyone’s attention and horns blowing and people yelling support at us,” said Rams in Action adviser Joe Pallitto. “We definitely got the message out today.”

The idea of the club began four years ago, stemming from a discussion between Pallitto and the high school principal, who knew Pallitto had a personal connection with the issue of safety behind the wheel.

Pallitto’s 17-year-old daughter, Jena, was killed in a drunken driving crash in 2006.

“She was under the influence of alcohol, and when this happened after everything for about a month or so, my wife and I just kept talking to each other about what do we do,” Pallitto said. “We can’t let this go; we have to do something.”

The Pallittos teamed up with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and took their message to schools, youth groups and churches by giving presentations.

That message only grew more after the club was created, allowing teens to connect directly to their fellow teens and get the message out.

“If we can get through to one person, if we can save one person, then it was all worth it,” Pallitto said.

The club’s 30 members routinely set up safety booths in the school commons during lunch, attracting classmates with dance and music.

The booths are more frequent prior to long weekends, dances or graduation, Pallitto said.

Rams in Action also use grants from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission for broader community efforts, such as the sign-waving Tuesday and PowerPoint presentations Thursday.

The club received two $500 grants, one to address texting while driving and the other for impaired driving.

Members worked on signs and banners used Tuesday. Among those waving and shouting at drivers was 17-year-old junior Merrigan Risvold, vice president of the club.

“It went really well,” she said. “We had a pretty good turnout of people and none of our signs got wet and nothing went wrong.

“People were honking and waving and showing their support.”

Risvold has been a member of the club since her freshman year.

“I think it helped get the word out about Rams in Action, and how we are trying to raise awareness for safe driving and remind people not to text and drive – including at intersections,” Risvold said.

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