Colonie Central High School students from a graphic and digital photography stand in front of the billboard featuring the winning PSA designed by 10th-grader Haylie Szemplinski.
More than 45 Colonie Central High School students from a graphic and digital photography class submitted ideas to Lamar Advertising for a PSA to urge people to stop texting and driving. The unveiling of the billboard took place near the intersection of Central Avenue and Route 155 on the morning of Wednesday, May 28.
It was at the same time that 10th-grader Haylie Szemplinski found out her design won the contest.
“I’m pretty surprised I won,” said Szemplinski, who said the competition was stiff with so many other great entries.
The students in the class took photos and created slogans to remind people that the driver's seat is no place to be texting.
According to the National Safety Council, there is an accident caused by distracted driving every 30 seconds. So far this year, there have been nearly 421,000 accidents nationwide caused by drivers using cell phones.
“I hope that people will understand that it’s really not too good to text on the road, and that it can happen to anybody. I hope that people won’t text and drive,” said Szemplinski.
Szemplinski got involved in photography at the begging of this school year when she started taking the graphic and digital photography class.
This is the fourth year that Lamar Advertising has worked with the school to make PSAs and provide them with billboard space to generate awareness on safe driving. The billboard comes at no cost to the school, and the staff plays a big role in project.
“We help teach the class, we do the voting, my staff votes, we print this and post this as part of a community service project,” said Vice President and General Manager of Lamar Advertising Matt Duddy.
According to Duddy, the school reached out to the advertising company three years ago to help teach students in the class how to design a billboard.
“The goals are pretty specific on this project. We talk about how long you can see it, colors, type of audience. Everybody gets to submit one design, and I bring it back to my staff. It’s a very democratic system. We all vote on first and second place, tally up the votes and that’s how you get the winner,” said Duddy.
The PSA will stay up for approximately a month, but can then be used on other billboards in the area. Another thing that makes the process fun is that the students don't know who the winner will be until the billboard is unveiled.
“No one knows who wins until they get here. They’re all excited and they get to watch us unveil it,” said Duddy.
As of July 2013, drivers who have their permit or are still in the probationary period of having their license and get stopped for using a hand-held device while driving, will have their license suspended for 60 days. A second conviction will result in a 60-day revocation of driving privileges.
“Hopefully the kids do this project and learn something. The first year was drinking and driving, and the last two years have been texting. You look at their ages and notice they all have phones in their hands. Hopefully these kids learn something, and if this saves one life, we’re doing a good job,” said Duddy.