Sharing the Keys of our Community

“The saddest part about these accidents is that they’re preventable,” Officer Pat McCormick said, looking solemnly at the crowd of East Brunswick families. Teens are at the highest risk of being involved in a car crash during their first 12 to 24 months of driving, according to the Share the Keys brochure. Even worse, a teen’s fatality risk increases by 44 percent when there is one additional passenger in the car.

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Matt Laurenciana, 11, recently attended a Share the Keys presentation. He says, “I feel more confident in my driving abilities for next year.”

Andrew Yuen, Bear Hub Staff

Starting this year, the East Brunswick School District has partnered with the New Jersey Police among other safety-focused groups to bring Share the Keys as a new requirement for parking in the high school. This hour-long presentation is geared towards reducing the risk of teen-related crashes and promoting safe driving for students at the high school. Along with Officer McCormick, Officer Reggie Wright will visit the high school a total of four times to give the presentation.

While many students feel the pressure of safe driving, the two officers assured students that safe driving is not a one-person task; Officer Wright told the crowd, “The first thing I do when I get in the car is put on my seatbelt. Now, when I forget to, my daughter immediately tells me to put it on.” Being a good role model is a major part of encouraging safe driving. EBHS Principal Dr. Vinella told Bear Hub that “the presentation is at times more for parents than for students.” Similar to what Officer Wright said, he believes that “the moment a baby gets into their carseat, they notice their parents’ driving behavior like sneaking a look at their phones or driving very fast.” However, the extent of a parent’s role in their teen’s driving is widely contested.

One contested topic was the Life 360 app, which allows parents to monitor their children’s driving speed and GPS coordinates. Unpopular with many students, this app was warmly welcomed by parents. Senior Rachel Bernadskii’s mother, Julia, said the presentation “gave me great ideas about my daughter’s driving.” Dr Vinella agrees, saying that his wife downloaded the app for his kids and for himself because it encourages safe driving. Many students argue against it, stating they must drive slower as a result of the app; however this may prove Life 360 encourages safe driving despite objections from students.

Throughout the presentation, the officers showed a variety of videos that resonated deeply with students and parents alike. One of these videos, “Remember Sydnee,” showed the impact of texting while driving and not wearing a seatbelt. Sydnee, a high school student, lost her life in a car accident by making those two fatal mistakes back in 2013. “These choices do not just impact the victim, but everyone around them,” Officer McCormick said. In the video, family and friends narrated the harrowing moments following Sydnee’s tragic death. Although most school functions are light-hearted and fun-spirited, students came out of the auditorium both reflective and confident. Junior Matthew Laurenciana explained that he “learned a lot and [feels] more confident to start driving next year.”

Dr. Vinella says “We want this program to eventually be for juniors so that they are prepared to get a license.” Before Share the Keys was mandatory for parking passes, students were given the opportunity to attend an optional presentation after school. Approximately 15 families attended in past years, in comparison to the over 400 students who will have to fulfill the requirement this year.  With several car crashes happening at other high schools, EBHS wants to prevent such tragedies from ever occurring in our community. Such topics are just some of the many reasons that the Share the Keys presentation is one of the most important educational resources here at East Brunswick High School.