It is a day organizers hope rattles students.
From graphic crash videos, firsthand accounts of survival, hands-on demonstrations on the dangers of distracted driving and stern warnings from police officers — Project Ignition is an annual event at Payson High School designed to get student drivers thinking.
But the day may have been too much for some students with the tragic death of a student less than two months ago still weighing heavily.
Many students expressed continued grief and shock as a result of the tragic death of Saige Bloom in late January after her accelerator stuck and her vehicle careened through mid afternoon Payson traffic. Swerving to avoid crashing into a car with several children in the back seat, her own vehicle rolled and she was ejected.
During a video memorial about Bloom shown in the auditorium Friday during Project Ignition, half a dozen students left the room while many more stayed and wept — including her mother, cousin and sister.
But Bloom’s death has inspired students to act.
During a recent Donate Life organ donation drive, 535 Payson High School students signed cards authorizing their organs could go to another in the event of their death, nearly 80 percent of the student population.
Through tears, Bloom’s cousin Jamaica thanked students who had signed the cards. Several of Bloom’s vital organs went to others after her death, including her heart and liver to a 13-year-old boy.
Jamaica said Bloom’s life was full of miracles and even after her death, she was making them happen — helping others live and thrive.
As children, Jamaica said Bloom used to follow her around wherever she went, Bloom always looking up to her. Now, Jamaica says she looks up to Bloom for the unprecedented courage she showed when she realized her vehicle would not stop. Police say Bloom’s quick actions dodging vehicles as her vehicle hit speeds up to 60 mph on Highway 87 likely saved many lives.
Unfortunately, Bloom lost her life when her vehicle clipped a turning car.
While authorities agree, Bloom showed unparalleled courage, they believe she was not wearing her seat belt at the time.
Jamaica said she never knew Bloom not to wear a seat belt, but her accident had driven home how important it is always to wear one.
And while she was not talking on her cell phone during the accident, Jamaica said things could have ended a lot differently if Bloom had been.
“It is truly important for us to get off the phone,” she said. “Imagine how much worse it would have been had she been on the phone and not fully aware enough to avoid those cars.”
Putting on your seat belt and putting the phone in the back seat are two simple things that could help save your life and someone else’s, she said.
This is the third year PHS has put on a Project Ignition event under the guidance of teacher Shelly Camp.
The event includes tips for safe driving and demonstrations, including a mock car accident in years past, to get students attention, Camp said.
However, in the three years of the program, three PHS students have lost their lives in driving-related accidents.
With Bloom’s passing, Camp said she questioned what the event could really do to save lives.
“When I heard about Saige, it really hit me hard because we had lost another student,” she said. “I started reanalyzing what we were doing.”
While past events focused on important topics like drunk driving and distracted driving, this year organizers wanted to bring the event back to the basics and push seat belt use.
“I thought about other accidents and realized a lot were not wearing a seat belt,” she said.
After Camp lost several relatives and close friends to auto accidents, she helped start the Project Ignition day in a Tucson school and brought it to Payson.
“In the three years and nine months I have been at Payson High School, three teens and one teacher have lost their lives in vehicle-related crashes,” she said. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any more.
“So what does that mean? It means that every time you get in the car you need to buckle up, every time you get in the car you need to focus on driving and every time you are in the car you need to be a responsible passenger. Put down the phone, focus on the road and make good choices.”
Department of Public Safety deputies Steve Montgomery and Tiffany Herald said it is up to you to drive and act responsibly while in a vehicle.
During a recent penny drive at PHS, students collected $820 and gave the money to Bloom’s family.
If you would like to donate to Bloom’s family, a bank account at Wells Fargo in her name has been set up.
Natalie Black, the PHS chapter president of Students Against Destructive Decisions, said Bloom was many things in her life, but most of all she was a light.
“Remember you too can spread light,” she said.
Along with Camp and Black, SADD members include Anthony Smith, Austin Shannon, Megan Wessel, Kaitlyn Wessel, Janine Tantimonico, Jordyn Fruth, Brianna McNamara and Lanie O’Donnell.