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Bedford County accident survivor works with school club to prevent traffic deaths

Published On: Feb 18 2014 04:21:20 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 18 2014 05:38:04 PM EST

Chantelle Burns is trying to prevent accidents like the one that killed her friend, Bronwyn Farris, last month.


Jefferson Forest High School students go out of their way to promote safe driving.

Every year a club called YOVASO, or Youth of Virginia Speak Out, hosts an assembly to remind students about dangers on the road.

"I remember being a freshman, sitting in the auditorium and hearing these presentations, thinking that's not going to happen to me," said Chantelle Burns, a Jefferson Forest High School student.  "I never thought I would get in my car, drive down the road, and lose someone very special to me."

Burns was driving a car on Route 221 on January 20, when she and her friend, Bronwyn Farris, crashed near the Lynchburg city limits.

Burns was wearing her seat belt.  Farris was not.

"Every time we got in my car, I begged Bronwyn to put on a seat belt," Burns said.  "Sometimes it takes something bad and tragic like this to help kids realize a seat belt really will help save your life."

In light of what happened to Farris, Burns and the YOVASO club are taking action.

They're launching a program called "Bronwyn's Challenge."

"Bronwyn's Challenge is a way to have a positive reaction to (her death), because we can't go back and change what happened," said Kamden Becraft, president of the YOVASO club at Jefferson Forest.

Over the next two days, students and their parents will hear presentations from YOVASO members.  They'll be asked to sign banners, pledging to buckle their seat belts.

Everyone who accepts the challenge will be given a bright yellow bracelet that says "Click it for Bronwyn."

While their effort is primarily aimed at Jefferson Forest students, YOVASO club members would like to take their message to a broader audience.

"We're hoping to take it to the middle school, as well as county-wide and state-wide, so that everyone will have these yellow bracelets," said Amanda Staton, student council president at Jefferson Forest.

Burns believes she's a walking example that seat belts can save lives, and while she couldn't protect Farris, she hopes her school's effort will prevent many other deaths.

"I always try to stay positive and think that something good will come out of this, because that's the only thing that can come out of it," Burns said.