Tari Costello is using her connection to students and the Wisconsin FFA to spread the “Speak Up to Slow Down” message.
Speak Up to Slow Down shares the story of the 2012 car crash in the Fond du Lac County community of Campbellsport that resulted in three deaths.
As a result of the crash, video producer Gregg Burmeister and individuals directly affected by the crash decided to do something about it.
A teenage driver safety video, Speak Up to Slow Down, was created. The 26-minute video was released the end of May.
Visit www.speakuptoslowdown.com to watch it.
Costello is an agriculture education instructor and FFA adviser at Waupun Area Junior and Senior High School.
She lives in the Campbellsport School District.
Costello’s children were close friends to the nine girls who were in the vehicle that crashed on Feb. 4, 2012.
“Our house was the last place that the girls were that night,” she said.
The girls, which included two seniors, six juniors and one freshman, were athletes, honor roll students and members of FFA, National Honor Society and Student Council.
They were together that night to bond before the start of the upcoming soccer season.
A trip to a fast food restaurant was followed by a stop at Costello’s house to toilet paper it.
No drugs or alcohol were involved in the crash that occurred as they headed back to the home of one of the girls in the vehicle.
The driver was speeding on a country road known for its hills and dips.
In addition to three deaths, the crash resulted in life-long injuries for two of the girls, a variety of injuries for four of the girls and a felony conviction for the driver.
Costello said the girls and their families were close to her family.
“Both of my sons were pallbears for the girls,” she said.
Costello said what happened in Campbellsport could happen anywhere and to anyone.
The messages they want students to understand include:
• Speed kills.
• It was a crash, not an accident. Choosing to speed is a choice – not an accident.
• Drivers are responsible for everyone in their vehicles.
• Riders need to speak up and not be afraid to tell a driver to slow down if they do not feel safe.
To date, Costello and students have presented the campaign’s message in Waupun and at the State FFA Convention, State Ag Teachers Convention and Weyauwega-Fremont High School.
Materials were also provided to high schools in the state..
The end of thsi month, they will show the video at the National FFA Convention in Louisville.
“As a teacher, parent and friend, I knew that it was imperative to get this in front of as many students as possible as quickly as possible. Working with the FFA was a natural avenue to share the message,” Costello said. “This crash has had a profound impact on me, my family and our entire community. Things will never be the same for many people, and countless people have been changed forever due to this high speed preventable crash.”
The presentation at W-F High School took place two weeks ago, during Homecoming Week.
Sandy Dykes, W-F’s agriscience instructor and FFA adviser, has known Costello since both of them were students at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Last month’s presentation at W-F High School was for all of the high school students.
“With 300 kids in the gym, you could hear a pin drop when the video was playing and when they were telling them of their experience,” Dykes said.
Ryan Ebert, president of the school’s FFA chapter, said, “To be honest, I thought our guest speakers were going to be exactly how they usually are – boring and not reaching any of the students in our audience.”
That was not the case.
“Once Mrs. Costello and her students began speaking and showing us the presentation, I knew that it would be different,” he said. “I think the fact that it was a real life story that happened very close to home really struck some of the kids in the audience. After the presentation, you could tell the presentation really hit a lot of students and made them think.”
Students could sign a “Three Angels Pledge” card and also a “I Made the Three Angels Pledge” banner, which hangs in the school’s commons.
People of all ages are encouraged to take the pledge, sign the card and place the card on the visor of their vehicles to serve as a reminder of their responsibilities as a driver.
Ebert said the presentation affected him.
“I put their Three Angels Pledge card in my car and haven’t begun driving without looking at the card and being sure I’m driving safely and cautiously,” he said. “Thank you to Mrs. Costello and her students of the Waupun FFA for their life-altering presentation to our students. You have left a lasting impact on our entire student body, as well as our staff.”