Pledge safe driving to win $100k and concert [The News-Times, Danbury, Conn.]
(News-Times (Danbury, CT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 12--DANBURY -- Danbury High School senior leaders, motivated by the accidents of some young drivers recently, want help from residents to reduce distracted driving, and to win a prize.
Students have organized a campaign to solicit people to pledge to be safe drivers. The school with the most pledges is awarded $100,000 and a community concert by Grammy-Award winner Kelly Clarkson.
People can make a pledge on www.votedanbury.com daily from Oct. 18 to 26 for the contest State Farm Insurance holds during National Teen Driver Safety Week.
Last year, the top prize winner in the contest called Celebrate my Drive garnered 200,000 votes.
"Recently a couple of us got into a car accident," said Nicholas Goetz, 17, president of the Board of Governors, one of three groups sponsoring the project. "And there were a couple of deaths (from accidents), too. We wanted to come together as a school and as a community and change things and to discourage reckless driving."
Leaders of the governors' board as well as Peer Leaders and school marketing club, DECA, are in charge of the events.
A community concert with Clarkson would be a great reward, said Danielle Biele, secretary of the Board of Governors.
"She's a Grammy Award winner and all of us know her. It would be a great end to our last year," Biele said. "There are over 3,000 schools in the competition and many are bigger. So its our little town competing against bigger cities. That's why we need the community and to expand into other towns."
The top four winners each will get $100,000 contest but the grand prize winner also gets the concert. The top 92 vote getters will receive $25,000 each for their schools.
"We want to win the top prize but our main objective in taking part in Celebrate my Drive is to promote safe driving," Najmah James, a 16-year-old peer leader and BOG vice president said.
One accident that hit the school hard was the death of Christopher Reyes, 17, a senior, when he died in a one car accident on University Boulevard at Western Connecticut State University in March 2012.
"You could see how powerful his loss was to the school. He was an athlete too. You feel the loss and still feel it here," Goetz said. "We don't want to go through this again."
Three members of the initiative, Chazz Winter, Nick Mortara, and Goetz were in a head-on accident Sept. 7 on Chambers Road.
"It was really hard to see the toll it took on our families," Goetz said. "We don't want that to happen to any other parents or students in our community."
The group has set up a series of activities to encourage people to sign up and pledge. Students will man a booth in front of the Microsoft store in the Danbury Fair mall next week and have a booth at the AMC theaters on Friday and Saturday evenings. In addition, Comcast cable will play a public service announcement that the students made that also will run at the theater too.
"I've also reached out to Danbury High School alumnae on Facebook with messages and want them to spread the word," said 17-year-old Kate Shannon, treasurer of the BOG. "We're also reaching out to younger classes, which will also help."
Students will be requesting pledges at Western's midtown student center during the week and will have a table at the Danbury High School College Fair at the mall, Oct. 21.
The Danbury Police Department has loaned two moving electronic signs to the initiative to remind people to pledge.
On Oct. 23, juniors and seniors will be able to test drive car simulators at school so they can see the dangers of distracted driving.
"What we hope is that we will get people to put their cell phones away so if they hear they have a message they are not tempted to pick it up," school psychologist Diana Galletta-Bruno and BOG advisor said.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and DECA advisor and business teacher Carmela Calafiore helped students organize the project.
The timing is right, Boughton said Friday, because the city is using a $50,000 state grant to pay for police overtime as part of a distracted driving initiative that started Oct. 9. Fines for distracted driving have increased to $300 for a first offense and $500 for a second offense.
Dan Maffecci, 16, said another visual reminder the group organized will be two wrecked cars a local junk yard will loan the school. One will be on the front law of the school and one will be by Fast Freddies on Newtown Road.
"We've had community projects before but never had this degree of community involvement," Danbury High Principal Gary Bocaccio said. "Distracted driving is something everyone can relate to."
The students know they have a challenge.
"200,000 votes --it's a lot of votes in eight days," Goetz said. "What we hope is that we will get people to put their cell phones away so if they hear they have a message they are not tempted to pick it up," school psychologist Diana Galletta-Bruno and BOG advisor said.
"We can definitely do it. We're winning this."
(c)2013 The News-Times (Danbury, Conn.)
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