Contest aims to teach teens about safe-driving practices

by: THE REVIEW: JILLIAN DALEY - Lake Oswego High had two honorees in the Clackamas County Safe Communities Posters and Coasters Safe Driving Media Contest. From left: Hana Yang, honorable mention; and Melody Xu, first place.Every school year, it seems, there’s at least one major teen-involved car crash in Clackamas County. This year, three Lake Oswego High School students were injured in a collision in November; earlier this month, West Linn teens Hayden Soyk and Maddi Higgins were killed in a horrific crash on Petes Mountain Road.

In an effort to prevent more accidents, Clackamas County Safe Communities (CCSC) sponsored a Posters and Coasters Safe Driving Media Contest designed to promote safe driving based on risk factors such as speed and distracted driving, or on safety strategies such as buckling a seatbelt.

This week, CCSC announced the contest winners: Lake Oswego High School junior Melody Xu pocketed first place, while LOHS senior Hana Yang earned an honorable mention.

Students were asked to craft a piece of art or pen clever messages promoting safe driving. Xu used graphite pencil to create a set of large eyes in which the road and a vehicle are reflected. Below the image are the words: “Keep your eyes on the road.”

Yang’s piece depicts a driver in a bubble who appears oblivious to a series of catastrophes in the outside world. She added two pieces of text: one at the bottom says “You don’t live in a bubble,” and another in a bubble by the driver that reads “I don’t care.”

“It doesn’t take too much effort to not text or keep your eyes on the road,” Yang said.

Xu said art teacher Katie Brinks was many students’ inspiration to make a poster.

“She told us about this and encouraged us to participate,” Xu said.

Brinks said she’s proud of the works her students produced.

“They really took their artistic talent to make substantial and thought-provoking posters,” she said.

CCSC program director Joe Marek said making the posters impacts the kids.

“It helps them think about the task that they do, which is driving, and the consequences,” Marek said.

CCSC program coordinator Patty McMillan said the community was a great supporter of the contest, with Clackamas Town Center providing gift cards to the shopping center’s stores for the top three winners — $300, $200 and $100. State Farm Insurance made it possible for CCSC to give $50 in cash to each honorable mention recipient; the company also will pay for reproduction of the posters, which are available for free to the community.

There were 98 contest entries. Second place went to Karlee Edwards of Sandy High School, and Ellen Scharff of Rex Putnam High School placed third. There were seven honorable mention awardees.

Lake Oswego police Lt. Doug Treat was on hand to see the LOHS contest awardees receive their certificates. He said there are a lot of crashes in the county, although Lake Oswego itself is “the safest place in the entire state.”

Last month, there were about 10 multiple-car crashes in Lake Oswego, Treat said. But Clackamas County ranks fourth out of the 36 counties in Oregon for the number of reported vehicle crashes, according to CCSC. There were almost 4,000 reported crashes, 40 fatal accidents and more than 1,800 injury crashes in the county in 2005.

That year, county officials proposed addressing safety issues with the development of CCSC. In 2006, the poster contest was developed and has returned every couple of years. The program is a partnership of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Transportation and Development. CCSO is sponsored by a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

CCSC’s poster contest will be back in a couple of years to again spread the message of safe driving. Meanwhile, Treat offers a few words of advice for drivers: “When you’re driving your car, drive your car. It’s a 5,000-pound weapon, and you could hurt yourself or someone else.”

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