SAYREVILLE, NJ - High school students from throughout Middlesex County produced 30- to 60-second public service announcements to warn their friends and classmates about the dangers of driving while impaired or distracted.
The winners of Middlesex County’s 17th Annual Safe Driving PSA Contest were announced May 5 during a conference in their honor held at the Middlesex Fire Academy in Sayreville.
“This is one of my favorite events every year” said Freeholder H. James Polos, chairman of the County’s Public Safety and Health Committee. “The PSAs are incredibly well done, the students have a real sense of accomplishment, and we’re helping to promote a message that can save lives. Families are shattered and lives are lost because of impaired or distracted driving. This program sends a powerful message to young drivers that we hope will be heard and remembered.”
High school students from 12 schools throughout the County produced 18 videos and 10 audio tapings that promote driving safety to their peers and to adults. English and Spanish language video submissions and English language audio submissions were judged on their originality and strength of message.
First place in the video category went to East Brunswick High School; second place went to Carteret High School; and third place went to Monroe Township High School.
First place in the audio category went to the Piscataway High School; second place went to Middlesex County Academy for Allied Health & Biomedical Sciences; and third place went to Dunellen High School.
Polos said the contest coincides with prom season to remind all students of the seriousness of distracted driving.
The program is co-sponsored by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, the Center for Alcohol Studies at Rutgers University, the Middlesex County Superintendent of Schools, Wellspring Center for Prevention and the Injury Prevention Program, Level One Trauma Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
The County received $15,000 in grants from the New Jersey State Division of Highway Traffic Safety to run the PSA program.
“It takes only a second for a distraction to become an accident,” said Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios. “On behalf of the Board of Chosen Freeholders, I would like to congratulate the winners and thank all of the students who participated in this contest and are helping to spread the word of safe driving to their peers.”
“The Middlesex County Office of Superintendent of Schools remains committed to supporting the County’s creative approach to reducing youth alcohol-related fatalities,” said Dr. Laura Morana, Interim Executive County Superintendent of Schools. “Through the PSA contest, students’ message to their peers is impactful in communicating the danger and consequences associated with poor judgment and distracted driving. I applaud the collaborative effort and congratulate our teachers and students for their willingness to spread the word.”
“On behalf of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, I congratulate the Middlesex County Traffic Safety Task Force and Freeholder Polos for their continued outstanding work with this program,” said Edward O’ Connor, Regional Supervisor of the State Division of Highway Traffic Safety. “By involving the students in the production of these PSAs, they are creating current and future advocates for safety as well as more effective outreach to the rest of the student population. Middlesex County continues to lead the state in innovate and effective methods for motivating its student population, pedestrians, and motorists in general."
Ezra Helfand, Executive Director of Wellspring Center for Prevention (formerly NCADD of Middlesex County) noted: “All of us at Wellspring are very proud of each student who participated in this year’s PSA contest. We strongly believe that it’s the process of making the PSAs that has the most lasting effect on the students. When putting the messages together, students are doing the research, talking to their friends … really thinking about it. I hope that they carry this message to their peers well after this contest is over, and into the future.”
“The Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies is honored to participate in this long-standing and interactive approach to promote safe driving for teens and young adults,” said Dr. Marsha E. Bates, Acting Director of the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies. “It is through collaboration between state and local governments and schools and community shareholders that important public health problems such as dangerous driving can be meaningfully addressed.”
“Members of law enforcement in Middlesex County work diligently and tirelessly to protect the public. In order for their efforts to be successful, the public must be educated as to the dangers which exist, and must believe in the initiatives proposed by law enforcement,” said Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey. “Today’s participants have greatly assisted us in our mission to stop dangerous driving. I congratulate and thank all of the students. I also assure you that we will continue to be vigilant and aggressive in our efforts to detect and prosecute those who engage in distracted and impaired driving.”
During the morning, students engaged in creative group activities, gained a realistic perspective on teenage drinking and experienced everyday activities through “fatal vision” goggles, which simulate elevated blood-alcohol levels.
The winning school in the video category received $1,000, second place received $750, and third place received $500. The winning school in the audio category received $500, second place received $300, and third place received $200. All winnings go to support Project Graduation or other Driver Safety and Awareness Programs. The Highway Traffic Safety Division provided gift certificates to each member of the winning teams.