North Kingstown High School senior Kyra Boullier has spoken about the dangers of impaired driving since July, when the car she was in was struck head on by a drunken driver on Tower Hill Road in North Kingstown. She hoped her message has not gone unheard.
Town officials proved that was not the case Dec. 14, when the North Kingstown Town Council honored Kyra, 17, and her sisters Megan, 15, and Isabelle, 13, for their work forming the advocacy group Raising Awareness Against Destructive Decisions, or RAADD.
The Boullier sisters were commended by Council members for working with North Kingstown Prevention Coalition and North Kingstown Police Department to get out the message about mixing alcohol and driving.
“Your actions haven’t gone unnoticed and the entire Council here would like to recognize you for the formation of RAADD and for trying to make our community better,” Councilor Kevin Maloney said. “All three have done an amazing job spreading the word about making good decisions in general.”
“It was shocking,” Kyra said as she recalled the accolades in an interview Tuesday. “It was nice to have older people see it and they supported it. It feels nice to have the support of the community.”
The group was formed after a serious crash July 12 – Kyra’s 17th birthday. Kyra was a passenger in her friend Madison Lavallee’s car, when it was struck head on by a car driven by Laura Jean Baumgardner, as it traveled along Tower Hill Road near Thelma Irene Drive. Both girls were injured; Kyra still attends physical therapy as part of her recovery. The crash was chronicled in an Aug. 19 story in The Independent, “Crash survivor hopes to make positive change,” which is available at independentri.com.
Baumgardner faces two felony charges of driving to endanger, resulting in physical injury, and misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license. Her next court date is Jan. 11.
Since the crash, Kyra decided to make the topic of drunken driving prevention the focus of her senior project. The sisters started RAADD at North Kingstown High School and Davisville Middle School, where they hold meetings twice a month after school, and make a presentation during the high school’s freshman orientation.
Kyra also worked with School Resource Officer Andrew Greenhalgh to present a “Save A Life” assembly, where juniors and seniors at North Kingstown High School used two machines that allow people to simulate texting while driving and drunken driving. Kyra said the drunk driving simulator showed her classmates they have a slower reaction time while behind the wheel, and gave them a sense of what it’s like being intoxicated behind the wheel.
The assembly also showed a YouTube video Isabelle created, featuring before-and-after pictures of the crash on July 12, and statistics on drunken driving, which struck a chord with the students.
“A lot of them were touched when they saw the video,” Kyra recalled. “They were pretty shocked to see how scary looking [the crash] was.” The video also circulated through social media to Rogers High School in Newport and Curtis Corner Middle School in Peace Dale, Kyra said.
The girls created a key chain shaped like a police badge with the RAADD logo inscribed, and handed them out at the Veterans Day Parade. The key chains, according to the family, were manufactured by Woonsocket-based Glenncraft Corporation and paid for via a legislative grant for drug prevention from Rep. Robert Craven (D-Dist. 32) of North Kingstown. The sisters plan to distribute more key chains at the New Year’s Day West Bay Family YMCA Polar Swim at North Kingstown Town Beach.
RAADD members also planted red tulips in the high school’s courtyard in memory of those who have died in drunken driving incidents and those struggling with alcoholism. RAADD also represented North Kingstown schools at a bowling event at Town Hall Lanes in Johnston sponsored by the Rhode Island chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Toray Plastics sponsored their team. RAADD members will participate in future MADD events, and increase messaging during prom season. The girls, through the North Kingstown Prevention Coalition, plan to organize a candlelight vigil in the spring.
Once Kyra graduates, she hopes her siblings will continue leading RAADD. Isabelle and Megan plan to lead the group at the high school, while Kyra’s brother, Matthew, takes charge at Davisville Middle School.
They also hope to build membership. RAADD has four members at Davisville Middle School and five at the high school, they said. Jammie Boullier, the girls’ mother, said groups at the high school tend to be forgotten once the students who founded the organizations graduate. Students who will keep the Boullier family’s message going throughout the community are needed, Jammie said.
“It’s more about keeping the group going and showing the high school [the group] will exist,” Jammie said.
Kyra would like to see more stringent state laws regarding the use of ignition interlock systems for those convicted of drunken driving. Per state law, judges can order those convicted of a second drunken driving offense to install ignition interlock systems, which force the drivers to take a breathalyzer in order to start the vehicle. Kyra wants the Rhode Island law to be more in line with Connecticut and Massachusetts where these systems can be ordered installed after the first offense.