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Shaler teen organizes traffic-safety-awareness event

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:02 p.m.
Pine Creek Journal
Close to 200 students from seven Pittsburgh area school districts break out into discussion groups during the first Youth Involved Education of Legal Drivers (YIELD) Traffic Safety Conference hosted by Shaler Area students. Bethany Hofstetter | Pine Creek Journal
Pine Creek Journal
Students line up to sign the Edgar Snyder & Associates’ Safe and Sober driving pledge during one of the breaks at the first Youth Involved Education of Legal Drivers (YIELD) Traffic Safety Conference, hosted by Shaler Area students. Bethany Hofstetter | Pine Creek Journal

Maddie Seel, a junior at Shaler Area High School, wants to prevent others from feeling the pain she felt when a friend died in a motorcycle accident.

As a result, Seel is working to make the next generation of drivers aware of traffic-safety issues.

Seel created Youth Involved Education of Legal Drivers (YIELD) and hosted the first YIELD Traffic Safety Conference for close to 200 students from seven local school districts Nov. 28.

“I know what it feels like to have gone through this, and if we can help one person out of that situation, it will be worth it,” Seel said.

Seel's friend Adam Schuster was good friends with her brother and was a 2010 graduate of Shaler Area.

He was involved in the school's Youth Advocacy League, played upright bass and studied music at Duquesne University.

Schuster also was active in the community and even ran for district judge in 2011 against an incumbent and a police officer to promote young people's participation in government.

On March 7, 2012, Schuster died in a motorcycle crash with another vehicle.

Seel said Schuster's death was still fresh in her mind when she attended the Second Mile Leadership Institute at Penn State University in the spring with students from Shaler Area. So the group mapped out a plan to put on the traffic- safety conference.

“I think it's important to get the students and young people; we're the next generation,” she said. “We can reach my level and generation and make it a little safer.”

Last week, Seel led the half-day conference for her peers that featured informational videos; speakers, including a state police officer and personal injury lawyer Edgar Snyder; and group discussions.

Jacqueline Bair and Diane Tirio, teachers and sponsors of the Penn Hills Senior High School Students Against Destructive Decisions club, attended the conference and brought with them one of the largest groups of students.

“With everything we talk about with destructive decisions, and driving being the No. 1 killer, we hoped this would open their eyes, and maybe they'd gain something from this and take it home to their friends,” Bair said.

Seel said she received a lot of support from the community and the connections she made through being part of the Allegheny County Teen Safe Driving Committee to put on the conference.

Chris Vitale, manager for injury prevention at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, is member of the Safe Driving Committee and said she was excited to help support Seel and the Shaler Area students with the initiative.

Vitale helped write the application for Shaler Area to receive a $5,000 grant from Allstate Foundation to put on the conference.

“Teenagers listen to other teenagers,” said Vitale about her support. “No matter how we present it, it sounds like we're preaching because we're older, but when it comes from their peers, they listen.”

Seel said she is excited by the student attendance and response to the conference and hopes to make it an annual event for the Pittsburgh area.

“I would like students to have a better understanding of why we promote traffic safety and why it's so important,” Seel said.

“Until you go through it, I don't think you realize how wide spread (the effects) can be.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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