Danville Express

Newsfront - November 23, 2007

Teens share true stories of driving misadventures

Web site details police stops and car crashes - along with lessons learned

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Lani looks at the camera and tells about how her life took a turn after a policeman stopped her for speeding while she was giving a friend a ride home, which was illegal because her license was only a few months old.

"I had to go to court three times," she says. "I felt like a criminal … I lost my license for one month … I never thought I would spend my whole summer, like, doing community service."

Alanna tells about accepting a ride home with a friend of a friend, who proceeded to drive 110 mph down the freeway. He continued to speed on Paraiso Drive, ran a stop sign and raced over a dip, which sent the car out of control, narrowly missing a tree before it crashed.

These stories and more are posted at www.ithappens2u.com, the new Web site where teens at San Ramon Valley High School are asked to share their real-life, from-the-car stories to help everyone learn from their experiences, in this year's Street Smarts campaign.

Street Smarts, a traffic safety education program in its fourth year, kicked off its 2007-08 season last week at San Ramon Valley High to tell the students about the new campaign, called "It Happens."

"We really struggled on the Advisory Committee on what to do with high school students," said Councilwoman Candace Andersen.

Previously, Street Smarts targeted elementary and middle school students.

"No one wants to be preached to," she added. "We actually hired a marketing firm to do a very small focus group."

They found that teens wanted real life stories, something edgy, and stories from their peers.

"They get their information from the Internet so they wanted a site where students can go in and work on the Web site," said Andersen. "These 'Web-isodes' tell about near misses and accidents that have occurred to them."

Six of the episodes posted to the Web site will be chosen for filming by a professional videographer and posted onto the site; SRVHS students will be asked to vote for their favorite.

The focus group also found the teens were interested in getting prizes and that many smaller prizes would be more of an incentive than a chance at one large prize. As a result, students who interact on the Web site by watching videos, taking quizzes or submitting stories will have the opportunity to earn points good toward prizes such as iPods, Xbox 360s and gift cards to local businesses. The grand prize will be an iPhone.

"Since we launched, it's been quite positive. We've had over 200 unique visitors," said Nat Rojanasathira, Street Smarts coordinator for Danville, six days after the launch. "We're still trying to get word out. Each day last week we had a different trailer, two-minute videos of students as a passenger or driver."

Only students from San Ramon Valley High can sign up for rewards on the Web site, but anyone can visit it to see the videos, Rojanasathira noted.

"Each year we will roll it out at a new campus," Andersen said. "My goal is to be able to maintain it at all of our high schools."

She said they brought in corporate sponsors to defray costs, including State Farm.

Again this year middle school students can enter the Street Smarts "Be Reel!" video contest by submitting 60-second videos on traffic safety themes. Finalists will premiere at the Danville International Children's Film Festival in May. High school students have shown an interest in a video contest, too, so the Street Smarts committee is thinking of branching out to this age group.

Elementary school students are entering a Storybook Poster Contest this year; in January they will draw illustrations for a storybook written by local children's book author Dana Mentink.

Street Smarts is a partnership involving the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, the Town of Danville, San Ramon, Contra Costa County and the San Ramon Valley Council of PTAs.


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