One Unsafe Step is One Too Many

How many students heard the message of your project?    

Estimated percentage of your student body?

Who has your project aimed to reach?
Freshman class, Sophomore class, Junior class, Senior class, Parents, Community at large

We are the Traffic Safety Youth Advisory Board (YAB) from West Orange High School. Our mission is to empower the youth to make a difference by providing an established channel for students to express their ideas and to develop recommendations for traffic safety projects. We aim to evaluate traffic safety issues, generate ideas for productive change, develop specific traffic safety improvement plans, and implement approved plans. We work closely with the Nikhil Badlani Foundation (NBF) and the West Orange Township, state legislators, and other partner organizations in advancing our goal of traffic safety.

Our goal for this year directly builds upon the preceding statement. This year, our focus was to promote pedestrian, bicyclists, bus safety & passenger safety and strengthen the GDL system as well as raise awareness of the dangers of speeding and distracted driving. Our objective is to not only raise traffic safety awareness within the community but also in the state of New Jersey.

The YAB consists of four committees: Marketing, Public Policy, Municipal, and Education. Each one of these committees tackles traffic safety issues in their respective areas.

The Public Policy Committee is responsible for advancing our mission through legislative action; primarily working with the New Jersey State Legislature to pass driver safety legislation.

The Municipal committee is responsible for working with local governments and authorities to improve road safety in our town, West Orange. They work closely with the West Orange Pedestrian Safety Advisory Board to achieve our goals.

The Education Committee is responsible for raising awareness among students and young children in our community. They typically create presentations about a selected traffic safety issue and present it to the target audience.

The Marketing Committee is responsible for raising awareness through social media and garnering public support for the activities of our other 3 committees.

Target Audience:
The primary target audiences of this project are young drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and passengers. We believe that all 4 of these groups can take specific actions to increase the safety of everyone who uses the road as a method of transportation. Although we are certainly targeting all 4 of these groups, we focus especially on the youth, particularly because we belong to that group and understand the thought process which makes them an ideal ground for campaigns and other forms of outreach.

Over the last two years, our objective has been consistent and focused: reduce the number of fatalities and serious crashes in New Jersey, primarily amongst the younger demographic.

The goal of the Education Committee is to educate our youth and adults about safe practices on our streets. This year we focused on the young students at a local elementary school to educate them about pedestrian, bicyclist, and bus safety. Around 200 4th and 5th graders participated in this interactive experience.

The goal of the public policy committee is to advocate for the passage of bills into law.

This year we continued to build on our advocacy for Bill A1354/S1963 which mandates 50 practice hours for new drivers, by reaching out via email and phone calls to state legislators to co-sponsor the bill.

In January, we presented the idea of a Traffic Safety Day in West Orange to the West Orange Pedestrian Safety Advisory Board. The day involved creating a Street Mural, educating the residents about the recently passed Safe passing Law, dangers of distracted driving, and other interactive activities.

The WOPSAB embraced the idea. Three locations were proposed. Finally, it was decided that we would create the mural by the Hazel Elementary School.

Approval was obtained from the Mayor, Town Council, WOPD, and the Town Engineer to execute the project. The concept for the mural came from an Art student and a professional artist was commissioned to enhance the design and implement it.

Weekly meetings were held with the stakeholders i.e. WOPSAB, WOPD, DPW, and Council members. A detailed project plan was created identifying tasks, target dates for completing each task, and owners. The process entailed, power washing, mapping and gridding the design, and finally painting. During all these tasks, the times for street closures were coordinated with the WOPD.

On Saturday, April 30th, hundreds of WO residents came out to help paint the mural, enjoy music, and food, and get educated.

In every facet of the YAB operation, collaboration was a key component. Our board meets weekly to discuss milestones achieved and to assess progress on pending tasks. As stated before, our board is divided into four major committees. Each committee is responsible for meeting its own separate goals, yet weekly they come together to meet the overarching goal of saving lives from motor vehicle crashes. During these meetings, the board would collaboratively provide updates, discuss future and present agendas, and record every meeting. Ad hoc committees were established to further our goals.

Throughout the year, our groups worked on email campaigns, informational presentations to educate our youth, PSA, traffic safety day, and multiple social media interactions. All of our action items throughout the year had to be approved by every member on the board. Hence, we obtained a diverse amount of opinions on all of our endeavours as a group.

This May we hosted a street art event which consisted of the community coming together to paint a large mural on the street to raise awareness for traffic safety. Each committee member was crucial to planning this event because everyone was given important roles. Some members focused on spreading information about the event, while others worked with teachers and officials to work out the design. Through contributions from every member, the YAB was able to achieve our goal for this year.

Use of resources:
The Youth Advisory Board utilized various resources to promote and deliver safety messages within the community. For example, the YAB’s Education Committee met with the Kelly Elementary school administration to gain permission to have the members of the YAB present to the 4th and 5th-grade students. Teachers were also notified that presenters would be coming during their class period, and the presenters encouraged the students to learn more about safe pedestrian and bus practices. Additionally, our Municipal Committee works closely with the WOPSAB which consists of representatives from the town council, Board of Education, Police department, Downtown West Orange Alliance, and town traffic engineers. Also, we partnered with the school administration, BOE, WOPD, and DPW on the Street Mural Project. In addition to painting the mural on Saturday, April 30th, we collaborated with EZ Ride to offer bike safety skills and learning-to-ride bike classes. Free helmets, bike lights, bike safety, and helmet fit info as well as Street Smart tip cards and Heads Up, Phones Down cards were given out to the participants. The Royal Strings orchestra from WOHS gave an outstanding performance. The Interact club volunteers from WOHS helped with face painting and Benji’s Food Truck provided sustenance.

Beyond this, the board has established strong relationships with some senior members of the State legislature during their continued advocacy for bills #A1354 and S1963.

Overall, the Youth Advisory Board successfully collaborated with WOHS and the surrounding community to promote our message to as many people as possible.

Use of media:
Throughout the year, we posted safety tips on our Instagram and Twitter accounts in order to get people in our school and community updated, and involved. Each of our achievements throughout the year was posted on our social media platforms.

We also collaborated with the film group at WOHS to create a PSA on the dangers of distracted driving which was submitted to the NJ Just Drive PSA contest. On April 30th, Images and stories of the Street Mural event were posted throughout the day.

Through social media and marketing, our campaign has been able to reach teens throughout the state. Not only have we educated ourselves on the statistics and dangers of distracted driving and speeding, but we have worked hard to make sure we educate others on how to drive safely, therefore benefitting drivers all over our community. Not only are we advocating for teen driving safety in West Orange, but also at a State-wide level, by working with State Legislators to pass the much-needed GDL provision.

To promote our Street Art Project, we created a flyer that was shared on various social media platforms. The posts garnered over 8,000 views. Consequently, we had multiple media outlets at the event such as NJ12 which interviewed one member from the YAB about the mural, and other local media outlets. The articles are linked below.

Art Alchemist partners with WOHS and Nikhil Badlani Foundation for mural

We understand the importance of practice hours, especially for teens, and thus continue to actively advocate for Bill A3793, formerly Bill A1354 and S1963. This piece of legislation mandates 50 hrs of supervised practice driving hours for teens of which 10 are in darkness for novice drivers before they attain a probationary license. In September of 2021, two members of the YAB were interviewed live by CBS2 about their efforts to pass the bill. The members urged those who were watching the show to call their respective legislators and push for the bill.

Every week, members reached out via email and phone calls to state legislators to co-sponsor the bill. We also partnered with AAA Foundation and are members of the

Partners for Practice Hours, a coalition of traffic safety advocates, medical professionals, traumatic brain injury patient advocates, educators, parents, and students.

Our bill did not pass in the 2020-2021 session, but we have continued to advocate for the bill during this current session. We felt that the main reason the bill did not pass was because of the 12-month time requirement that permit holders are required to hold a permit before becoming eligible for a probationary license. We requested Asm. Benson to amend this bill and a new bill, Bill # 3793 has been introduced in the Assembly and we are reaching out to Senator Diegnan to be our Primary Sponsor for the companion Senate bill.

At Kelly Elementary school we specifically targeted our message to the students who bus, walk, and bike to school regularly. We presented to all students in the 4th and 5th-grade class. Along with educating the children about street safety, proper behaviors regarding transportation, and extra information about street signs and symbols, students were tested on our presentation and many were rewarded with Stop 4 Nikhil shirts.

We continued to build on a similar interactive experience with the painting of the street mural near Hazel Elementary. We were able to bring out a crowd of people to pitch in and paint the mural that depicted unity and hope while also including street safety messages.

For the Street Art Mural, we wanted to determine if the project would have a significant impact on the way drivers interact with it. We had the WOPD place speed trackers before and after which will provide us with the tangible data to see if we would want to replicate this project in other locations.

After the completion of the mural, a press release was issued by our sponsor and community leaders were quoted. Here are some examples:

“The township of West Orange is grateful for the ongoing work of the Traffic Safety Youth Advisory Board in raising awareness for safer driving. The engagement of the community regarding the painting of this street mural is just the latest example of the outpouring of support for the cause. It however is more than just street art as it coveys an important message that resonates hope far beyond the street corner where it sits. It will hopefully inspire not only the students of Hazel Avenue Elementary school but everyone who sees it to carry the message of hope forward for another generation. “- Robert Parisi, Mayor of West Orange

“I truly enjoyed watching this magic come to life, the kids did an amazing job! Thank you so much for bringing more beauty to the neighborhood.” – Veronica Bird, West Orange resident

The permanence of our project was exemplified in our year-ending event, the painting of the street mural. This mural, which depicts themes of diversity and global unity will make sure our efforts remain present and acknowledged. As long as the mural stays up, our efforts will be obvious and present. Along the same vein, if this project continues to gain attention, we already have the infrastructure and preparation necessary to conduct a similar project in another location.

We also made sure to make the presentations to the elementary school students engaging and interactive, so that the information is not forgotten. We also have plans to do a similar presentation at other elementary schools in our district.

Unexpected Lessons Learned:
One of the main lessons that we learned throughout the execution of this project is the importance of assimilating new members and fostering an environment for open and effective collaboration. A large chunk of our board graduated last year, which left us with the daunting task of recruiting new members over the summer. Thankfully we were able to find passionate, driven members to pass the torch. As might be expected, this certainly came with its challenges. Meshing a large group of new and occasionally clashing personalities helped us to realize the importance of empathy and understanding when leading such a project. We were able to combine our efforts and different opinions to carry out our different events this year.

Beyond this, we learned that advocacy is difficult. Unfortunately, the bills we were advocating last year were stalled in the Senate and did not become signed into law before the clock ran out. This is a challenge that we had to deal with and are looking to use a novel approach to push this legislation forward. One of the main things we are trying to do this year is try to find a new Senate co-sponsor for the bill since the former one was not very passionate about the bill and did not maintain open lines of communication with us.

Stipend Reporting: Your school received a stipend to support your Champion School Teen Driving Safety Project. Additionally, any funds that you raised as a result of your project must be reinvested into transportation safety. The purpose of this report is to itemize expenditures for your project that were paid from the stipend

Street Art Project – $1000

Total – $1000