Established in 2011 by the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition, the GDL Champions program calls attention to the impact of the state’s Graduated Driver’s License program which is proven to reduce teen driver crashes. GDL Champions work diligently to educate, enforce and advocate for the proven principles of graduated driver licensing. This year the Coalition honors a longtime transportation planning and safety advocate who has made teen driver safety a priority in South Jersey, a teacher who not only promotes peer-to-peer to behavior change and good decision making behind the wheel but talks up safety every chance she gets, a Northern New Jersey community that is taking a collaborative approach to helping teens build skill and become good drivers for life, and a high school for its decade long commitment to educating students and parents bout teen safe driving and GDL. This year’s GDL Champions join with 38 individuals, organizations and initiatives previously recognized by the Coalition. Past and current inductees represent both the public and private sector and include educators, parents, teens, community activists, elected officials, police officers, businessmen and women, journalists, and safety professionals. They were nominated for the award and selected by an impartial panel of judges who are experts in teen safe driving.
As Executive Director of the South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO) since its inception in 1993, Tim Chelius recognized early in his career that the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which is tasked with guiding transportation planning and investment decisions and dollars, needed to include safety in its mission. Four years later, the South Jersey Traffic Safety Alliance was established to educate roadway users in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem Counties about traffic safety. When New Jersey’s GDL law was amended in 2010, the Alliance recognized the need to do more to address teen driver safety. Under Tim’s guidance and support, all SJTPO staff responsible for traffic safety education and outreach were trained as “Share the Keys” facilitators and instructors. Since 2012, they have presented the program 33 times to more than 6,000 teens and parents throughout the SJTPO region and in several schools in Camden and Gloucester Counties. Under his guidance, SJTPO has also expanded its teen safe driving efforts to include the provision of school-based programs including “The Most Dangerous Place on Earth,” “Car Crashes/It’s Just Physics” and “Teens and Trucks.” In 2015, SJTPO was commended by the U.S. Department of Transportation as the only MPO in New Jersey and possibly the entire nation to offer these types of traffic safety programs. SJTPO is recognized throughout the state as a leader in teen driver safety thanks to Tim’s leadership, commitment and passion. For this reason, we honor him today as a 2016 GDL Champion.
A year after Genevieve Corrales began teaching Spanish at Middlesex County-based Sayreville War Memorial High School in 2007, she recognized the need to help students make good choices, particularly when it came to driving. That sparked the establishment of the Sayreville’s first SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) Chapter, which has grown to become the high school largest extracurricular activity with over 130 actively involved members. Using SADD as a vehicle, Genevieve collaborates regularly with local and national businesses and organizations to promote behavior change behind the wheel throughout the high school and the local community. She works with students to implement traffic safety campaigns addressing reckless, impaired and distracted driving; encourages cross-age programming to educate middle school students about being responsible passengers; and annually brings national teen safe driving speakers to the high school. She encourages her students to get excited about traffic safety through in-class discussion, social media and participation in national campaigns, as well as through her involvement in the past six SADD National Conferences. Genevieve is particularly adept at engaging struggling, at-risk students helping to steer them towards positive decision-making. When a group of seniors at the high school lost a friend who was riding in a car driven by a drunk driver, she encouraged them to turn their grief into action by educating their peers about the dangers of impaired driving. For her enthusiasm, commitment and passion to helping Sayreville teens speak up about the importance of making good choices whether in the driver or passenger seat, we honor Genevieve today as a 2016 GDL Champion.
It takes a community to keep teens and citizens safe and nowhere is that more evident than in Kinnelon in Northeastern Morris County. Through a collaborative effort involving administrators and teachers at Kinnelon High School, the entire Police Department, and elected officials and business leaders, the community is working together to promote the proven principles of GDL and teen safe driving. Members of the Kinnelon Police Department have open and positive dialogue with teens in high school driver education classes. They use a variety of tools from simulators supported by the Municipal Alliance and Home and School Association, to drunk goggles and go-carts to help students experience first-hand the dangers of impaired and distracted driving. Since 2006, they’ve partnered with the high school to host a mandatory parent/teen safe driving night. Under the leadership of the Student Assistance Coordinator, the high school has also conducted the highly impactful “Every 15 minutes” program the past two years. The entire community also partnered to sponsor the “GDL Decal Thank You” program, which included the donation of gift cards by local businesses. With the administration’s support, the driver education teachers have instituted a NJ Drivers Manual summer reading and worksheet program for incoming sophomores so that classroom time can be spent addressing positive driving behaviors and the risks most likely to trip up teens. The Athletic Director has adopted the “GDL Game Plan for Coaches” and partners with the Coalition and NJAPHERD to promote its use to other AD’s across the state. He also speaks out about the importance of ensuring driver educators have access to continuing education opportunities and GDL and licensing information. From the mayor and police chief, to school officials and community leaders, Kinnelon is demonstrating that it takes a village to help teen drivers build skill and become good drivers for life. For this reason, we honor the community today as a 2016 GDL Champion. Accepting the award are Kinnelon Police Lieutenant Joseph Napolitano, Sergeant Christopher Burns and Patrolman Sean Patalita; Kinnelon High School Athletic Director Scott Rosenberg, Student Assistance Counselor Danielle Wysocki, and driver education teachers, Jim Soules and Eric Dicolo.
West Morris Central High School
In December 2006 following a teen-driver crash that claimed the lives of two of its students, West Morris Central High School in western Morris County partnered with the Washington Township Police Department to conduct a parent-teen driving orientation program using the National Safety Council’s “Alive at 25” materials. Led by an assistant principal and a police lieutenant, all juniors and seniors applying for an on-campus parking permit were required to attend the program with a parent or guardian. When staffing issues impacted the police department’s ability to continue facilitating the program, West Morris Central recognized the importance of the initiative and enlisted the help of staff to keep the program going. In 2011, with the help of community volunteers, the high school adopted the “Share the Keys” program and began requiring sophomores and their parents to attend the program as a pre-requisite for obtaining a parking permit once the former were licensed. When the volunteers were no longer able to continue facilitating the program, the assistant principal made the decision to have two teachers become “Share the Keys” facilitators so they could truly own the program. Nearly a decade after that fatal car crash, West Morris remains committed to ensuring that its students and their parents are educated about the risk for teen drivers and empowered to leverage NJ’s GDL program and other resources. The program is offered throughout the school year and publicized via the school website. The requirement that students complete the program with a parent is included the student handbook. No student is exempt from the requirement, even if his or her parent has already attended the program with an older sibling. West Morris Central’s commitment to educating its students and parents about teen safe driving prompted neighboring Hackettstown High School to adopt a similar requirement last summer. West Morris Central is held up as a model for how to institute a mandatory parent-teen driving program and for this reason we honor the high school today as a 2016 GDL Champion. Accepting the award on behalf of West Morris Central is Assistant Principal Anne Meagher and driver education teachers, Ken Rossi and Jim Ballela.