SADD receives driving simulator in driving awareness contest

The PHS club Students Against Destructive Decisions won a driving simulator valued at $20,000 this past June from the U Got Brains Champion Schools Program, a competition hosted by the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey. The simulator has a driving seat and wheel, which mimics the inside of a real car, and a screen that teaches students about proper driving behavior.

According to Alana Chmiel ’15, a member of PHS SADD, the theme for the 2012-2013 U Got Brains competition was “No Need for Speed,” which encouraged schools to raise awareness of reckless driving behaviors and driving-related injuries and deaths.

Different schools from around New Jersey prepared presentations that included documentation of their work and the impact it had on their school and community for the year. Displays of their work also incorporated photos and videos. The winning school had the opportunity to receive a driving simulator and also an additional $10,000.

A group of seven PHS SADD members, six of whom graduated in June, submitted a plan with a general idea of their goals to U Got Brains. The idea was approved and the group was granted $1,000 to use for the project. Chmiel, the remaining member of the competition group, said, “We focus mainly on drug use, partying, and bad driving decisions, [but] last year we focused mostly on driving because we were part of this competition.”

The group’s work involved making cardboard car pins that members wore around the school with pledges like “I won’t text, drive drowsy, speed, or drive high on drugs,” in order to motivate students to sign pledges swearing to refrain from destructive driving behavior. According to Chmiel, the group participated in the “X the TXT” campaign, which encourages students to provide their thumbprints as pledges to not text while driving.

The group’s efforts culminated in its presentation at the U Got Brains competition in late June at iPlay America, an indoor amusement park located in Freehold Township, New Jersey.

Chmiel described the inside of the building as “a science fair but with driver’s ed[ucation] stands.”

“It was a little intimidating to see what some of the schools had accomplished, [but] we also felt proud as we had done a lot compared to some other schools,” she said.

“The judges rotated around and saw what the Princeton High program had to present for the past … school year to bring about safe driving in Princeton,” said physical education and driver’s education teacher Kelsey O’Gorman, who organized PHS’s participation in the U Got Brains competition.

At the competition, a car crash survivor spoke about the surgeries he went through and the damage his body sustained after his accident. This talk was an effort to help bring awareness to safe driving. After listening to all the speakers, the winners were announced, and PHS SADD wasn’t one of them.

However, the founding sponsor, the New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group, then presented a driving simulator to each of the participating schools, including PHS. Chmiel said, “Everyone was so excited and amazed when they heard how generous it was.”

Currently, PHS students are eager to use the new driving simulator because it may help students become more aware of their driving decisions.

Shihan Yu ’15 said, “We’re looking forward to using [the simulator] with the sophomores as they go through their driver’s education classes.”

“There are programs that help students learn different things—from proper following distance to distractions behind the wheel,” said O’Gorman. “There are many lessons that the simulator has to offer, and, so far, the students seem really excited to get behind the wheel of it.”