Indian Hills HS students unveil mural to warn teens of distracted driving consequences

Indian Hills HS students unveil mural to warn teens of distracted driving consequences
Marsha A. Stoltz

OAKLAND — Can art help you drive more safely? Indian Hills High School students are counting on it.

On Tuesday sophomores unveiled a “distracted driver” mural that was the result of student driver participation in the “Driver Education Through Art” course from the Nikhil Badlani Foundation.

The West Orange-based foundation honors 11-year-old resident Nikhil Badlani, who died June 2011 after he was struck by a vehicle that drove through a stop sign. The foundation’s “STOP means stop!” message is a prominent theme in the 28 murals on display throughout New Jersey highlighting the dangers of distracted driving.

“Through art, students are able to learn about a very serious issue in a fun and engaging way,” said Sangeeta Badlani, foundation president and Nikhil’s mother at the unveiling.

The project followed a state-mandated presentation for students on the dangers of distracted driving under Nihkil’s Law, said Jill Fackelman, driver, health and physical education teacher.

“The subsequent sessions included brainstorming activities and final work toward the completion of the project,” Fackelman said.

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Students estimate that drawing designs for the mural took up two class periods, and two weeks to transfer the designs to the 8-foot by 5-foot mural.

“We transferred the designs using tissue paper, glue and paint,” said sophomore Kylie Walker.

Principal Gregory Vacca praised the “interdisciplinary effort.”

“We believe that when we connect to other subjects, in this case driver ed and art, as an experience we can heighten the learning, strengthen the learning, and look at how important this topic is,” Vacca said.

State Farm supports the foundation’s efforts, and Allendale agent Ed Kalpagian was present to encourage students to “engage before you start driving.”

“We’ve done this with clients, bring their kids in to talk about safety while they’re taking driver ed,” Kalpagian said. “It’s harder to bring them back after they start than to start them out with good habits.”

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