Suffield High School’s Advanced Film and Video class is taking their classroom learning into the real world. These students are taking the fundamentals of video production and combining them with an initiative to make a positive impact on the world by creating PSAs promoting safe driving. The PSAs are being submitted to the video contest “Just Drive,” run by Impact Teen Drivers and sponsored by NJM insurance, as a part of a wider social media campaign that the class has been working on.
This campaign targets mainly teen drivers who use their cellphone while driving or have other unsafe, distracted driving habits. The goal of the campaign is to reach out to this demographic via their peers; these teens have an advantage as they understand their target audience better and can therefore be more rhetorically appealing to them. The campaign is being carried out on the Suffield Public Schools Facebook page, through messages within the school community such as a video message board, and on livestream announcements. These provide platforms much more audience friendly than typical “safe driving” assemblies which involve students filing into an auditorium and sitting in silence as a stranger repeats truisms that may fall on deaf ears.
Matthew Sinofsky, a senior at SHS and prospective film major, says, “The real benefit that comes from a student-led campaign is that we can take specific angles that really appeal to teens. We look at this issue through a new lens and can use social media and filmmaking as our method of communication, which I believe is much more impactful than most school speakers.”
This new frontier for distracted driving campaigns is much needed. Teen drivers are three times more likely to be in a fatal crash on a per-mile basis, and while multiple factors may play into this increased risk, teens text and drive at a much higher rate (39%) than older generations (<1% for 65+). And the issue is not subsiding. Distracted driving contributed to 3,142 deaths in 2019, an increase of 10% from the year before. These frightening statistics are being countered by campaigns like Suffield’s, which is having a noticeable impact on members of SHS.
Through this campaign, students can witness their peers deliver messages instead of those heard from disconnected “experts” at tedious assemblies. One SHS student says, “Coming from my friends, [the message] is much more personal. Some guy up on a stage just can’t mirror that.” The teacher overseeing this campaign is film and video program teacher Carl Casinghino. He is aiming to allow students to create work that has an immediate, noticeable impact on the world around them.