December 15, 2013 at 10:51 PM
WEST ORANGE, NJ - The new $20,000 Driving Simulator installed at West Orange High School was dedicated on Dec. 13 to the memory of Nikhil Badlani, who would have been a freshman at the high school this year. Badlani passed away on June 11, 2011 when a distracted driver ran through a stop sign.
Present at the dedication were representatives of the Brain Injury Alliance Center, Wendy Berk and Rita Steindlberger, the Badlani family, high school officials, high school friends of Nikhil, and the sophomore Driver's Ed Class.
Thanks to the efforts of the Nikhil Badlani Foundation, West Orange High School was able to enter the "U Got Brains" competition to promote traffic safety awareness. That effort was spearheaded by teacher Bill Urbanski.
Although Columbia and Lenape High Schools ultimately won the competition, during the awards dinner, New Jersey Manufactuer's President and Chief Executive Officer Bernie Flynn told the crowd that not only would the Grand Prize winner receive driving simulators, but all 53 participating schools would receive simulators in honor of the company's 100 year anniversary. The Badlani Foundation and West Orange school district received news about the simulator at the end of June.
Anay Badlani, Nikhil's brother, was excited to sit at the simulator and see some of the programs it offered. According to Wendy Berk, Public Education Coordinator for the Brain Injury Alliance, the simulators have proved to help train young drivers and save lives. Statistics show that nationwide in 2011, 3,400 teens aged 16-20 years old died in traffic fatalities.Traffic accidents are a leading cause of death for young adults 16-25.
"If this driving simulator helps to save even one life, it will go a long way for Nikhil's family and their healing process" Berk said. Not only does the simulator provide basic driving scenarios, it also provides programs that will show teens what could happen when texting, when distracted, or driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
"Nikhil will always be a Mountaineer at West Orange High School" said Principal Hayden Moore. "He will always be in our hearts."