WEST ORANGE, NJ - On Friday, December 14th, the Nikhil Badlani Foundation partnered with Andy Anderson, Coordinator of the Essex County Community Traffic Safety Program to educate the Sophomore and Junior classes at West Orange High School as part of their driver education curriculum. The presentation focused on the Graduated Driver License (GDL) and how it helps keep teens safe while they get the necessary experience driving on the road. The dangers of distracted driving, and the importance of wearing safety belts in both front and back seats were illustrated and discussed with the students. Roughly a thousand students attended the workshop.
Sangeeta Badlani, mother of Nikhil Badlani, who died in a car accident on June 11, 2011 when a person failed to stop at a stop sign, opened the presentation with a very moving slide show of Nikhil's life and the impact of his loss on the family. Her mission is to make the roads safer and she appealed to the students to help her in this effort as they are the “drivers of tomorrow.”
Anderson engaged the audience by sharing anecdotes, video clips and enlightening statistics. He shared a funny, but captivating spoof from Taylor Swift on Saturday Night Live that showed that not all teen drivers are bad. Anderson pointed out that, “children learn from their parents and can follow the same driving habits as their parents, good and bad.”
Anderson presented data that showed that motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for teens and that “more Americans have been killed by car collisions than in every single war we have fought in combined.” The data showed that though teens are the smallest demographic of drivers, they have the highest percentage of crashes.
Anderson discussed why it was so important to wear a seat belt while riding in a vehicle. The good news is that seat belt usage rates in New Jersey is one of the highest in the nation and well above the national average. The bad news is that teens tend not to wear seatbelts when they are driving on the road. Anderson explained using basic physics that it is impossible to brace yourself using just your arms in even a low speed collision. He showed how a 150 pound person in a car moving at 30 mph is thrown forward with a force of 4505 pounds, and how that results in passengers being ejected from the vehicle when they are not belted.
He briefly went over the GDL rules and the importance of the red decal that all student learners are required to display on the license plates of the vehicles they are driving. He pointed out that GDL and parental education is working to help drive the number of teen crashes and fatalities down. He also shared that serious research; the first of its kind worldwide, by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) on the effectiveness of the decal in preventing teen crashes has shown there has been a 14% increase in enforcement of the GDL by law enforcement and a reduction of teen crashes of 9%. The study is ongoing and many other states are keeping an eye on New Jersey as a role model for teen driver safety.
Anderson ended his presentation with “If nothing else the one thing I want you to walk away with today is to always wear your seatbelt while riding in a car.”
Lianne McCauley, a junior at WOHS said, “It’s important for people to pay attention and be aware of what they are doing as one mistake can cause an unfortunate circumstance as in the case with Nikhil. Nikhil Badlani Foundation is doing a great job of raising awareness and the importance of drive smart, save a life.”
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