MIDDLESEX COUNTY – High school students from throughout Middlesex County produced 30-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 14th Annual Safe Driving PSA Contest were announced during a luncheon in their honor held at the Middlesex Fire Academy, 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 18 schools throughout the County produced 27 30-second-long videos and nine 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.
“The New Jersey State Police is committed to its partnership with Middlesex County in an effort to save lives through education and enforcement,” said Lieutenant Colonel Edward Cetnar, Deputy Superintendent of Operations. “I want to congratulate the high school students honored today for their outstanding contributions to this critically important public safety announcement.”
“Keeping people safe on our highways is a major responsibility that belongs to all of us,” said Dr. Samuel B. Stewart, Interim Executive County Superintendent of Schools. “I am proud that so many students have accepted this responsibility by participating in this program. In fact, more students participated this year than ever before which is also a tribute to all the teachers and parents who encouraged them.”
First place in the video category went to Monroe Township High School; second place went to Edison Municipal Alliance’s SADD chapter; and third place went to New Brunswick High School.
First place in the audio category went to Dunellen High School; second place went to Middlesex County Academy for Allied Health & Biomedical Science; and third place went to North Brunswick High School.
Polos said the contest coincides with prom season to remind all students of the seriousness of drinking and driving.
It 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, NCADD of Middlesex County and the Injury Prevention Program and 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.”
“On behalf of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, I congratulate 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.”
Steve Liga, CEO and Executive Director of the NCADD, said that just as it is important for parents and other adults to talk to teens about driving safety, teens have a role to play when crafting prevention messages: “They speak the language of their peers to their peers. They know what they like. They know what they will listen to.”
Liga said that while the product of all their work has a big payoff for viewers, 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. That’s what sticks. The message is one they internalize.”
“In order to ensure the safety of all those who use our roadways, Middlesex County law enforcement has worked tirelessly to educate our citizens on the dangers of distracted or impaired driving,” said Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan. “Middlesex County law enforcement also vigilantly and aggressively prosecutes those who, by violating the law, place both themselves and others at risk of harm. We thank all of you here today for your efforts in helping us to stop impaired driving throughout Middlesex County.”
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 three winning teams.
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