NUTLEY, NJ - Nutley Raiders are at it again using their brains for much more than academics, but also for common sense to promote safe driving in Nutley. The “Raiders Ride Safe” program has launched again for a fifth year with the dedication of the 18 seniors in Jim Kelly’s TV 3 Production Class. This year’s campaign focus is distracted driving.

The class received a $750 grant from the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey’s U Got Brains Champion Schools Program. “The check will be put into the campaign,” said Kelly.

The class discussed their ideas for this year’s program at Nutley High with public education coordinator Wendy Berk, vice president of development and communications for Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey in the school’s audio visual room.

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Lead producer and spokesperson, senior Victoria Huizing presented the suggestions her classmates recently brainstormed, with a detailed list on a large projector screen. Some ideas that worked well in past years at Nutley High were rehashed and new ideas were suggested.

The first suggestion was one that was used the previous year, to adhere flyers with their message and logo “Raiders Ride Safe” on pizza boxes at the local pizzerias. Berk seemed to love the idea and suggested to take it one step further. “Create stickers with your logo and have those locations place it on the sandwich wrapper or coffee cup,” advised Berk.

Huizing also said the class would involve the elementary schools again this year and ask those students to produce safe driving essays and posters. “To remind parents to be aware, to send the safe driving message to parents,” she explained.

Another suggestion was to do the “mannequin challenge.” “Two students would get into a car in the student parking lot and demonstrate the effects of texting and driving,” explained Huizing.

Berk recommended this is something the class should jump on and do now in December. “That in May this challenge might run its course,” she pointed out to them.

Kelly advocated to his students to look for big corporations with local ties to get their message out there as well. He also suggested they get the Chamber of Commerce involved and Nutley ShopRite. “We will set up a table there,” said student Chris Conte. Conte elaborated that they will have people pledge “I ride safe for…” at the location.

The students will bring back their T-shirt logos again and place their posters all around town including hanging a banner on Franklin Avenue.

Berk also recommended to the students to approach the town council and the board of education about their campaign. “Get the community involved as much as possible,” she emphasized.  

As well as having their classmates pledge to their campaign during lunch, the students also plan to hold an assembly. “Five students will be on stage with the auditorium black and the spotlight on each one representing a victim, someone who died from texting and driving,” explained Huizing. “The stage would be pitch black in between with sound effects of a car crash and police sirens” she added.

“They will be real life situations. Stories of people who died from distracted driving,” continued Kelly.

The class chimed in inquiring to see if maybe it would be possible for the families of the victims to get involved and tell their story on stage.

Berk also reminded the students that texting was not the only way to be distracted. “Drowsy driving is also one,” she noted.

She explained to the class that drinking and driving accident rates have gone down but drugged driving has not. “It seems drinking and driving has been drilled into your heads. People don’t seem to be aware of drugged driving,” she added.

Discussions of a flash mob public service announcement and a jingle were also brought up to Berk and Kelly.

“[The campaign] is purely student driven. Each student will have a crew position and a responsibility to expand in content and develop technical components in the campaign,” Kelly explained to TAPinto.

Kelly noted that student Nicolette Contella will oversee the social media aspect. He said they will get the campaign to as many media outlets as they can, such as Facebook and Twitter to get their message across.

The “U Got Brains” program will conclude with the award showcase in May at Great Adventure.

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