Many road safety messages were driven home to Rotorua students this week.
The Our Roads I Matter - Road Safety Youth Expo 2020 was held this week at the Energy Events Centre.
The expo is attended by the Rotorua police, St John ambulance, fire service and other local service providers to educate students about the choices they will make about keeping themselves and their friends safe when driving on the roads.
Funding is provided by the Rotorua Lakes Council and NZ Transport Agency.
More than 900 Rotorua students attended the expo, with only one school pulling out.
This year's expo was interactive, with students able to move through simulated service provider areas, asking and answering questions, viewing important lifesaving equipment, a fake car crash and the chance to think about future choices they can make about their partying and future driving habits.
As part of the St John Ambulance display there was a coffin and a police body bag, two confronting pieces of equipment.
Rotorua Lakes Council Safer Journeys co-ordinator Helen van Beek is passionate about road safety.
As young drivers remain one of Rotorua's at-risk demographics in road crashes, council along with other partners promote two road safety programmes targeted at young driver behaviour, she says.
Driver Directions is a free programme to help improve novice driver behaviour on the road and is held at OffRoad NZ, Mamaku every school holidays.
The Rotorua Road Safety Youth Expo is aimed towards young people who are still a year away from being able to get their Learner License.
The 2020 expo's slogan "Our Roads I matter" aims to promote the message to young drivers that the road is an asset we all have access to, regardless of age or any other factors, meaning shared responsibility and respect for all drivers.
"To keep everyone safe, we all need to play our part," Helen says.
Helen also says the expo aims to provide youth with an, "awareness of what decisions they make, make a difference and to speak up to avoid tragic situations".
Sandy Anaru, PE teacher and Year 11 dean at Rotorua Lakes High School attended the expo with her students.
She was impressed at how many of the exhibitors are interactive.
"They [the students] can engage with them and be involved."
"[There is] lots for them to think about prior to getting their licenses."
Carol Taite, from the Rotorua Fire Service, encouraged students to remember their parents would rather hear from them in the middle of the night asking for a ride than to come face-to-face with police or fire service officers bearing bad news, should a tragedy occur.
Carol encouraged students to "remember to keep their friends and themselves safe" especially with the choices they make as young drivers.
Sally Stewart, an Emergency Technician for the Rotorua St John Ambulance service, has been in the service for 11 years, including volunteering.
Her goal is to "educate them [the students] as much as we can".
She says they worked out a plan that everyone, every student has a choice, and then tailored the interactive exhibits around this idea.
Sally says the fire service and St John worked together for this expo, and the benefits show.
Through the idea of telling a story from partying through to a car crash, the aftermath with fire and ambulance and polices services as first responders, through to a court room, jail cell and community service options, students could see the consequences of bad choices when mixed with driving.
Senior Constable Viv Sutton reiterated the polices' involvement at the expo and students could try on specially designed simulator 'drunk goggles' and then try to walk a straight fake white road line.
Rotorua Lakes High School students, Chloe Staveley, 15, and Kyral Hurunui, 14, took part in the goggle wearing task. There was lots of giggling as they tried hard to walk the straight line.
"I couldn't walk straight and it was hard to move my legs," says Chloe.
"I felt like I was going to fall over," Kyral adds.
The Police booze bus was set up outside and students could go inside to see the different tests that take place at drink driving stops.
Viv says the police also run a Blue Light Youth Navigator Programme where community members help provide practical driving lesson experience with a teenager they can mentor for about six months in the lead-up to gaining their Learner License.
She encourages people to get in touch if they are interested.
For more information on the Driver Directions course or the Blue Light Youth Navigator programme contact the Road Safety Rotorua Facebook pages, Rotorua Lakes Council www.rotorualakescouncil.nz/driverdirections or www.bluelight.co.nz