That is how many distracted driving crashes have occurred in Ohio since 2018, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Kenston High School seniors Lily Tatara and Skylar Pagan are doing something about it with a Distracted Driving Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign.
The PSA will run March 20 to 24 at the high school, on the high school’s Chromebook home page, and KHS social media. It will be entered into the multi-state NJM Insurance Group’s “Just Drive”’ PSA contest.
Ryan Novak, an English teacher at KHS since 2010 who also teaches specialty courses, had Skylar and Lily in his digital media class last school year, and in an independent study last semester and found their creativity and ingenuity to be special.
“I had them (Skylar and Lily) in my digital media class last year, and then this year, I had them in the fall. There was like an independent study, which is, you know, not something you offer every kid. You know it’s great to work with these kids. We’re on block scheduling. So, we only have kids for the semester. So, it’s frustrating, like, at the end of the semester. When the kids have all these skills, you really get to know them, and sometimes you can never see them again. You know they just aren’t in your class again. So, it was great that I had the opportunity to work with them as they did other stuff,” Mr. Novak says.
Skylar and Lily, who plan to study Communications Design and Creative Writing, respectively, in college, had created PSAs of exceptional quality for class, so when Mr. Novak received an email about the NJM Distracted Driving Campaign contest, he knew Skylar and Lily would be just the girls for the job.
“They did a PSA for tech week last year that was shown to the entire school in home room. They did a really good job. They had a hollowed-out computer as the head of one of the characters that I believe Skylar wore, and stuff like that, so they did a really good job with that,” Mr. Novak said, “and so they had a proven track record and I knew I could go to them.”
Mr. Novak also felt the contest would give the pair an excellent opportunity to get experience with what designing a campaign in a professional context is like.
“They did a lot of fun, creative filmmaking and stuff like that in the independent study,” he explains, “but they also did stuff that was grounding the real world of like, okay? Well, you have please your client and do stuff for people and other areas that may not be what you want to do, and I thought it was a great experience for them to do that in a more real way here as well.”
Working creatively within the constraints that NJM set out for the contest, such as the time limit, topic area restrictions, and a teen target audience, was the most challenging part for the girls.
“It’s only a 30-second video, which is kind of one of the things we had to get around because there were a lot of criteria for it,” Lily says.
However, it didn’t stop them from coming up with an excellent out-of-the-box theme for the campaign.
The girls said they wanted to avoid the typical themes and create something different and fun to watc.
“Of course, there is the generic ‘click it or ticket’ kind of video,” Skylar explains, “but we usually take a more creative route in all of our things ,like with the computer head with the Tech PSA, so for this, we wanted to do something a bit out of the box which we found with the angel- and-devil kind of theme.”
“One of the statistics they shared with us is that the risk of a car crash doubles if you have two passengers in your car under 21 years of age,” explains Mr. Novak.
The girls say this was not only the most surprising thing they learned through this project, but also sparked the idea for their theme.
The campaign, which features an angel and a devil on the shoulders of the driver, truly meets that goal of an out-of-the-box approach to a distracted driving issue often forgotten.
“They (NJM) wanted to stray kind of away from things like alcohol and drugs and phone use, and focus on things people don’t really bring up as distracted driving,” Lily explains. “So, we really like the idea of distracting passengers because oftentimes, what’s the most distracting are the people in your car acting rowdy. The angel and devil on the shoulder is just a fun way to show that.”
The campaign at the high school, based around the 30-second PSA Skylar and Lily created, not only gets the students of KHS thinking about their driving habits, but also helps fulfill the community involvement and social media component requirements of the NJM Insurance Group’s ‘Just Drive’ contest.
Each day at KHS next week, PSA announcements will be read on the PA, and stats and information will be on the home page students see every time they open their Chromebooks.
On the KHS social media pages, graphics will be posted each day, and posters of those graphics will be hung up throughout the high school.
Additionally, students will be given journal-style writing prompts, about the information in their English classes throughout the week to help them reflect, absorb, and really process the information. “In journals, kids tend to be a little bit more honest and stuff like that, as opposed to a formal essay where you bring in statistics. They’re kind of giving to teacher what they want,” Mr. Novak explains. “So hopefully, through journaling and things like that gets the kids thinking that, like, yeah, my friends really are a distraction when we’re driving or oh, yeah, I should probably, put my phone down when I’m driving and actually watch the road and stuff like that. So to kind of follow up, in addition to seeing the posters in the hallway we have a home page that all the student Chromebooks go to, just to get them reflecting and absorbing the messages.”
Clearly, the girls and Mr. Novak enjoyed this project.
When the girls are asked what their favorite part of creating the PSA was, Skylar quickly responds, “the costumes.”
The girls and Mr. Novak share a laugh.
Skylar explains as Lily nods along in agreement, “I just really like the theme we did for the most part because it added that creative spark we kind of have throughout our videos from a basic prompt we took, and we were able to kind of have that creativity to it.”
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