Traffic Safety Festival

How many students heard the message of your project?

Estimated percentage of your student body?

Who has your project aimed to reach? 
Sophomore class
Junior class
Senior class
Community at large
Other (Elementary School)

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. We continue to focus on pedestrian, bicyclists,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.

Target Audience:
The primary target audiences of this project are bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers. We believe that these groups can take specific actions to increase the safety of everyone who uses the road. Although we are targeting the general population, our focus has been primarily 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.

In January, we presented the idea of a Traffic Safety Festival in West Orange to the West Orange Pedestrian Safety Advisory Board. The day involved bike lessons and bike safety skills for elementary school children, educating the residents about the recently passed Safe Passing Law, creating a mural, a Vision Zero workshop and two bike giveaways.

Three locations were proposed. Finally, it was decided that we would hold the event at Washington Elementary School. Approval was obtained from the Mayor, Town Council, WOPD, and the Town Engineer to execute the project. We also had groups such as the Vision Zero West Orange, the high school interact club, and ROTC volunteers to help and hold activities.

Weekly meetings were held with the stakeholders such as WOPSAB, WOPD, DPW, and Council members. A detailed project plan was created identifying tasks, target dates for completing each task, and owners.

On Saturday, April 22nd, dozens of WO residents came out to participate in the lessons, help paint the mural, enjoy the music, and food, and get educated.

In addition, we offered bike safety skills and learning-to-ride bike classes thanks to EZ Ride. 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 Interact club volunteers from WOHS helped with face painting and Benji’s Food Truck provided sustenance. The Pedestrian Safety Murals created by the attendees will be permanently displayed at the Washington Elementary School or the children’s section in the West Orange Public Library.

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. committees were established to further our goals.

The first thing we did this year was a small poster that is now displayed outside the West Orange High School gym. This was our first activity of the year, and the goal of the poster was to introduce this year’s focus, and work together as new members.

Throughout the year, our group worked on email campaigns, informational presentations to educate our youth, PSA, Traffic Safety Fest, 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 endeavors as a group.

This April, we hosted a Traffic Fest to raise awareness of traffic safety. Each committee member was crucial to planning this event because everyone was assigned roles. Some members focused on spreading information about the event, while others worked with town leaders, and outside organizations to finalize the plans.

Through contributions from every member, the YAB was able to achieve our goal for this year.

Use of resources:
We have 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. Additionally, the board is in discussion with Kelly to hold a walking school bus event. The event is planned for mid-may.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. We Collaborated with WOPSAB, Downtown Alliance, WOPD, EZ Ride, NBF, NV5 and NJDOT and the township on hosting our 2nd Annual Traffic Fair.
Last year, West Orange adopted a resolution to establish a Vision Zero task force to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030! WO is one of the 4 cities in NJ that is in this process. As members of the WO Vision Zero Task Force, the Municipal committee will work with NV5, a consulting firm recruited by NJDOT, and other members in developing a VZ action plan. The Traffic Fest was selected as the first Public workshop by the VZTF to share and educate the residents about VZ and get their input on traffic safety concerns in WO. 20 students were selected to participate in the NJ mandated 6 hrs behind-the-wheel program. A Google form was sent to all the sophomore students. Five Star Driving School was recruited to provide the lessons to these students. The lessons will be funded by the $10,000 cash prize the Board won in 2021. We may expand on this program with the cash prize won in 2022. Beyond this, the board has established strong relationships with some senior members of the State legislature during their continued advocacy for bills A3793 and S2789. 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, and infographics on our Instagram account 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. In addition, we shed light on the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, which was on November 19th. This is a day to remember and pay respects to those who lost their lives or been seriously injured in crashes and traffic-related incidents. We posted information about the event using the hashtag #WDOR2022.

We also collaborated with the Sports Media Association at WOHS to create a PSA on the dangers of distracted driving which was submitted to the NJ Just Drive PSA contest. On April 26th, Images and stories of the Traffic Fest event were posted throughout the day.

Through social media and marketing, our campaign has been able to reach teens throughout the state. This has been a learning experience for us as we educate others on the statistics and dangers of distracted driving, and pedestrian and bicyclist-related crashes. 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 Traffic Safety Fest, we created a flyer that was shared on various social media platforms.

We have been featured in, WOPatch, News12nj, and CBS2. In addition, our testimonies to the state legislators were widely published in an article linked below, as well as a Tik Tok by The Garden State that garnered thousands of views.

We understand the importance of practice hours, especially for teens, and thus continue to actively advocate for Bill A3793/S2789. 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.

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.

Research and preparing for our presentations and activities has also expanded our knowledge on these topics.

At Kelly Elementary School we specifically targeted our message to the students to walk 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 before and after our presentation. 80% of the students walked away with new knowledge. In addition, 75% of the children who participated in the Learn to Ride a Bike class were successful and learned to ride a bike in a safe environment at the Traffic Fest.

The permanence of our project was exemplified in our year-ending event, the Traffic Fest. The children who took the bike lessons have left the event with a skill that will carry forever, and tips that will help them stay safe while riding. Our mural will be seen by children in Washington Elementary school for years to come. 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.

We are also working with outside organizations to provide a lasting impact on our youth. 20 students were selected to participate in the NJ mandated 6 hrs behind-the-wheel program. A Google form was sent to all the sophomore students. Five Start Driving School was recruited to provide the lessons to these students. The lessons will be funded by the $10,000 cash prize our YAB won in 2021. We may expand on this program with the cash prize won in 2022.

Unexpected Lessons Learned:
One of the main lessons that we learned throughout the execution of this project was the importance of assimilating new members and fostering an environment for open and effective collaboration. A large amount of members graduated from the board last year, which included all the officers. These members had been a part of the board since its creation, and we worried about how to organize the events without their leadership, stepping up as new officers, and finding members that would be passionate and driven. Thankfully, our new members were always motivated, and provided refreshing, creative ideas for this year’s projects. This does not mean we were free from problems though. Meshing a large group of new and occasionally clashing personalities helped us to realize the importance of empathy and learning 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 often difficult. While writing our testimony we needed to be able to get our message across, and it was sometimes hard to know what the right thing to say was. Also, after we testified it was often hard to get in contact with the senators, and know how to continue pushing our bill through. This is a challenge that we had to deal with and are looking to use a novel approach to push this legislation forward.

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

Camera and Videographer for PSA – $50

Total –  $50