According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10 percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. In an effort to reduce these numbers, the Lenape Regional High School District turned its attention to the “Heads Up, Eyes Forward!” safe driving campaign during a presentation given at the June 22 board of education meeting.
Founded in 2010, this campaign is part of the district’s Lenape District Television Option Two program, an avenue for students to obtain credit for learning experiences outside of the traditional classroom environment. Through LDTV Option Two, third- and fourth-year communications technology students can earn credits toward graduation by working with LDTV and are given the opportunity to become involved with “Heads Up, Eyes Forward!”
“I think the program is vital to the entire school community because of the fact that a lot of people don’t realize how our message affects them directly,” LDTV advisor Deejay Deeney said. “When the students start working on their public service announcements and different ideas, they can then relate them back to their own lives.”
Proving the campaign’s success, this year the group participated in the U Got Brains Champion Schools Competition, challenging high schools throughout New Jersey to develop teen driving safety programs for their schools. For the fifth time in six years, and out of the 59 schools that competed in this year’s program, “Heads Up, Eyes Forward!” was awarded one of the three grand prizes, winning a driving simulator for one of the district’s schools. The Brain Injury Alliance also awarded season passes to Six Flags Great Adventure to all group participants.
“One text or going on your phone for a few seconds isn’t worth risking your life or someone else’s life. One wrong move and you could end up in a serious car crash,” said Mt. Laurel resident and Lenape High School graduate Samantha Goldstein. “I think a lot of people don’t realize how important our message really is.”
To further stress this message, the group demonstrated to the board through its video, the “Heads Up, Eyes Forward! 2016 Year in Review Show,” all that it has done during the past year to improve driver safety in the local community. Included in its endeavors, the group has created music video parodies, designed annual t-shirts and named April 25 as “Heads Up, Eyes Forward! Day” in South Jersey.
In addition to these projects, the group also helped promote the second year of the “Safe Driver of the Month” parking spot campaign. Back in October 2015, students from “Heads Up, Eyes Forward!” visited all of the schools in the Lenape district and handed out campaign magnets. Each month, a student proudly advertising one of these magnets on his or her car won a preferred parking spot for the entire month and was featured on the school’s electronic message board.
To further warn their peers of the dangers of distracted driving, “Heads Up, Eyes Forward!” also released a number of public service announcements throughout the school year focusing on how distracted driving is not always the driver’s fault, how life is not like a video game and how negative behaviors and actions can affect everyone around the distracted driver.
“When you’re driving a vehicle, you’re basically driving a weapon. If you misuse what you’re driving, it can lead to bad things to happen,” said Michael Moroski, a graduate of Lenape High School. “My grandmother was in a car accident because of a person who wasn’t paying attention. She could have died in that situation, all because someone wasn’t making good choices.”
As the group continues to spread awareness and reach people beyond the local community through social media efforts, it hopes to make a positive impact and reduce the negative consequences and casualties resulting from distracted driving. The board of education was beyond pleased with the work of these students, and congratulated them on their recent success.
Pictured left to right: Board of Education President Linda Eckenhoff, Scott Buck of Lenape High School, Bryan Kelly of Cherokee High School, Guinevere Pepe of Cherokee High School, Sean Kelly of Cherokee High School, Samantha Goldstein of Lenape High School, Michael Moroski of Lenape High School, Alex Hatoff of Lenape High School and D.J. Deeney, group advisor. Not pictured from the organization are: Maxwell Bass of Lenape High School, Megan Schultheis of Cherokee High School, Derek Hill of Lenape high School, Evan Bradley of Lenape High School and David Hamaty of Shawnee High School.