Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School junior Nikhil Patel was the recipient of a college scholarship due to his work creating a campaign for safe driving titled, Drive2Live2Drive.
Patel created a multimedia campaign for a DCH Auto Group's Teen Safe Driving Foundation contest to promote safe driving among teens. 250 contestants from the state of New Jersey posted their campaigns on Facebook and the 10 campaigns with the most Facebook likes were entered as finalists.
The 10 finalists produced and distributed their campaigns, Patel's included a website, t-shirts, a radio announcement and several recorded commercials with fellow SPFHS students.
The idea behind Patel's campaign is for the last "Drive" in "Drive2Live2Drive" to be whatever each individual believed to be their drive in life.
At the Nov. 29 Board of Education meeting, Patel said that he did not want his campaign to be a generic statement that applied to everyone, but rather something that everyone could personalize.
For instance, in one of his commercials he featured a friend who is an avid soccer fan, the friend's slogan was "Drive2Live2Score," as he made a goal into the soccer net.
Patel told everyone in attendance at the Board of Education meeting on Nov. 29 that he really hopes this saves some lives and that he personally has known a few people that died due to distractive driving.
"Just 3 seconds looking at your phone equals driving the length of three football fields blindfolded," he told the audience. "I don't know why anyone would be willing to take that risk."
When DCH Auto Group held an event to announce the winner Patel initially was shocked.
"I had to take a second to really let it settle in," he said.
“Nikhil’s campaign connects with teens on a personal level,” said Roy Bavaro, Executive Director of the DCH Teen Safe Driving Foundation in a press release. “It harnesses the power of social media to engage teens, parents and the general public. We can’t wait for people to see this wonderful idea.”
As winner, Patel's campaign is currently running as a Public Service Announcement featuring 115 SPFHS students. According to Patel the commercial is airing on TBS, MTV, Discovery Channel, History Channel and Food Network.
"So go home and find it!," Patel urged the audience.
Additionally, his campaign will be featured on 300 NJ Transit cars, on billboards and in schools.
In a commercial produced by DCH Auto Group featuring the finalists and Patel as the winner, he commented on his choice between a new car and a college scholarship, he jokingly said his choice was due to not having his license yet, which caused the members of the crowded BOE meeting room to laugh.
Vice President of the Board of Education Nancy Bauer told Patel his accomplishment is so impressive and asked him what he is interested in as a career path.
"I'm a big car fanatic, which is surprising I didn't choose the car," he said. "But probably something in business or technology."
Board Member Jeanne Cleary urged the Terrill Middle School students at the board meeting to get Patel's message out and talk about it with their friends.
While Board Member Douglas Layne told Patel he is definitely saving some lives by doing this.
On the Drive2Live2Drive Facebook page Patel encourages teens to "Live for what drives you in life and do not let distracted driving end your dreams prematurely."
You can enter your personal drive to live at Drive2Live2Drive.org where it will be entered into a database. The most recent drives are listed on the bottom of the site. Also on the website are four videos produced by Patel for his campaign.
Editor's note: This story first ran in November of 2012.