By Michelle Poirier

A new youth road safety initiative is ready to roll out across York Region next year, after a successful initial run.

The initiative came about after a local student, Sophia Plante, who is in grade six at Keswick Public School, submitted her idea and was selected to receive a grant from Parachute, Canada’s national charity dedicated to injury prevention.

Parachute awarded grants to youth across Canada as a part of their Youth Road Safety Grant Program.

The initiative was a collaboration with York Regional Police (YRP), Parachute Canada and the York Region District School Board and they held their first event at Lake Simcoe Public School on November 2.

“Sophia and her team partnered with the York Regional Police to purchase bright yellow backpacks with the school zone speed limit on it and distribute them to grade one and two students to wear and remind drivers to slow down and use caution in school zones,” the Parachute website says.

“The students will wear their backpacks at the beginning of November to coincide with daylight savings time.”

Sophia Plante wearing her backpack design

Detective Sergeant Christopher Plante, Unit Commander, Major Collision Investigations, for York Regional Police, and Sophia’s father, said dinner table stories about car crashes and road safety have influenced Sophia.

“YRP thought [the initiative] was cute and visually impactful. Sophia submitted a road safety grant for funding to Parachute Canada and ending up winning. YRP matched the grant money to bring this idea to life and outfitted 30 Lake Simcoe Public kids in these [backpacks],” he said.

“YRP intends to roll this out across the entire Region in 2024. Every municipality, multiple schools. It’ll be great.”

Plante said Road Safety at YRP has started a new campaign to get their message into people’s hands and keep it there. This includes merchandise like playing cards, reusable grocery bags, portable chargers and Yeti cups all in bright yellow.

“I have been taught that road safety is a two-way street. As much as it’s important for drivers to slow down, it’s just as important for me as a pedestrian, to be safe and be seen,” said Sophia on Parachute’s Facebook page.