Nikhil Badlani Foundation youth advocate for traffic safety awareness
WEST ORANGE, NJ — Despite the pandemic, the Nikhil Badlani Foundation Youth Advisory Board has continued to surpass its mission goals to evaluate, generate, develop and implement specific traffic safety plans.
On April 9, West Orange High School YAB students kicked off their Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign by distributing specially-designed signs to be placed on busy roads throughout the community. The 13-member group is led by junior Anay Badlani, whose family created the NBF in memory of son and brother Nikhil, who was killed in an auto crash with a distracted driver in 2011.
“Yesterday’s event was the start of our distracted driving awareness campaign,” Anay Badlani said on April 10. “Distracted driving is an epidemic on our roadways and far too often, people disregard this issue. We want to remind everyone about safe driving practices. These signs, which have messages such as “Hands on the Wheel, Eyes on the Road,” will hopefully reduce the number of crashes in our town and reduce the number of fatalities to zero, as that is the only acceptable number.”
Formed during the 2018-19 school year, the YAB has become a driving force along with the foundation in raising awareness of distracted driving and other traffic safety issues in New Jersey. This year, the students advocated for Bill 1354/S1963, which changes the practice driving requirements for permit holders for obtaining a probationary license. On Jan. 25, the bill was unanimously passed by the Assembly Transportation Committee. A similar bill will be introduced on the Senate side on May 6. For more information, visit https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2020/Bills/S2000/1963_I1.HTM.
In January, YAB members continued its work of educating their peers and presented safe driving practice information to freshmen. Information included seat belt and passenger safety, and distracted driving.
The group has continued its work with the township of West Orange, making recommendations to the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Board and initiating a townwide survey on road improvements and bicycle lanes.
For the third time, the YAB is participating in the “U Got Brains Champion Schools contest.” This year’s project is “One Unsafe Step is One Too Many.” In 2019 the team was one of three grand prize winners, winning a $12,000 driving simulator for the high school.
This year they will participate for the first time in the “Just Drive PSA” contest. The students created a 30-second video that addressed the dangers of distracted driving.
On April 14 the students are scheduled to receive the Traffic Officers Association of Essex County Timothy Larney Memorial Traffic Safety Education & Enforcement Award and will be named GDL Champions by the Teen Safe Driving Coalition of New Jersey.
The recognition is for the YAB’s work not only on a local level in West Orange but statewide, as the YAB works with state legislators.
“I am so proud of our students on the Youth Advisory Board and for their advocacy to raise awareness of distracted driving and other important safe driving practices,” WOHS Principal Hayden Moore said. “This is work that will not only affect our present but our future generations of Mountaineers as well. Thanks to the Nikhil Badlani Foundation and their incredible support of our students and community.”