Students partner with sheriff's department to promote driver safety

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SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — No more than five years old, a little girl sits in the passenger side of a car while her dad drives. She has a toy steering wheel on her side of the vehicle, immitating the drive alongside her father, underscoring the importance of parental influence on future drivers.

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Her father peels out on a 25 mile per hour route and runs a stop sign while executing a turn, tires screeching. Cut to the girl, a little older now. She begs her dad to drive faster.

“They’ll leave without me,” she worries, before her dad sends a text behind the wheel, informing the recipient of their delay. In the next sequence, the girl is 16, having just earned her license. But, before the video’s end, she crashes her car into an oncoming vehicle while drafting a text. The text, in response to a friend lecturing her about texting and driving reads, “It’s cool, my dad does it all the time.”

If you watched the video, available on YouTube, you might struggle to believe that it was produced by a team of high school-aged Audio Video Production (AVP) students. But, in partnership with the Windham County Sheriff's Office, Zachary McNaughton’s AVP class at the River Valley Technical Center (RVTC) produced the two-and-a-half-minute clip to be used in Enhanced Teen Driver Safety Program.

“For hours [I] searched various resources looking for a video which would address the topic of parental role-modeling and the impact they have on teen drivers,” Windham County Deputy Sheriff Mike Roj said. “After my unsuccessful search for an emotionally impacting video, we decided to make our own.”

While the video already has over 1,200 views on YouTube, it premiered publically for the first time at RVTC on Friday. State Farm Insurance sponsored the video.

Through the Enhanced Teen Driver Safety Program, Roj visits Driver’s Education programs throughout Southeast Vermont to present on proactive highway safety techniques, historical data, hands-on demonstrations, videos and tips to each new generation of teen drivers.

“In 2016, teenage drivers represented two percent of all Vermont’s licensed operators, yet they’re responsible for 8 percent of all reported crashes,” Roj said. “Their lack of knowledge and driving experience make them very vulnerable to crashes.”

According to Roj, it’s the only program of its kind in New England.  

Part of the Enhanced Teen Driver Safety Program includes a parent meeting and attempts to remind parents of the important role they play in the educational process.

“Parents influence teens driving behavior based upon years of watching the they way parents drive,” Roj said.

The video attempts to arrest the role parents play in teen driving behaviors: the final shot shows the father sobbing, head in his hands, when he realizes the last text his daughter sent exposes his own culpability in her death by vehicular crash.

“Capturing that emotional aspect is really important to the success of this,” Roj said.

McNaughton’s AVP class stumbled upon the opportunity to create the PSA while they were in the midst of raising funds to participate in the national SkillsUSA tournament. Being enlisted to help the sheriff's department produce the video allowed them to participate, where they won 4th place in the nation and a prize of $3,500.

The video for the Enhanced Teen Driver Safety Program isn’t the only time the AVP students have flexed their safety video muscles: they also produced a workplace safety video, in concert with OSHA, for the Teen Safety in the Workplace Contest, where they placed 3rd place out of 50 states, the Navajo Nation, and the U.S. territories.

For the Enhanced Teen Driver Safety Program video, AVP had to use a plethora of shooting locations and hold auditions for actors, particularly challenging was finding three actresses who could convincingly portray the same girl at three periods in her life. They had help from Fay’s Wrecker and Repair Service, who provided a damaged vehicle and worked with the production team to get the vehicle in the right position for the effect.

Additionally, the production had to coordinate with construction workers, who were paving Route 5 at the time of the production. Overall, McNaughton estimates 30 hours of production went into the final product.

Now, Roj hopes the video will reach as many people as possible. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is already providing a national venue for the video, and the video will be used in future Enhanced Teen Driver Safety Program sessions.

“Creating a video is all about distribution,” Roj said. “If no one sees it, what difference will it make?”


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