Short film attacks bad driving behaviour

‘He was my closest cousin, more like a brother to me. My family will never be the same now. I wish I had taken his car keys away.’

Those are the opening words of a 30 second public service announcement which is expected to start airing at Grand Cayman’s movie theatre next month.

The idea, according to directors of the MattSafe road safety committee, is to meet teens where they are and warn them about the dangers of driving.

‘It’s made by kids, for kids,’ said MattSafe co-chairman Wiekert Weber. ‘A lot of this has to do with peer pressure.’

Mr. Weber said his group has run advertisements and public service announcements on TV, radio and newspapers before. But this is its first foray into the cinema.

Assuming enough funding is available Mr. Weber said the spot will start running just before feature films are shown. He hopes it will resonate with the captive audience.

The initial video, which led to the creation of the ad, was made by John Gray High School teacher’s aide Priscilla Pouchi and a group of her students.

Ms Pouchi directed what was originally a two-minute 30 second short film about a fictitious teen driver whose friends are speaking about him in attempts to scare him straight.

‘The whole idea behind it was that the boy wasn’t dead yet,’ Ms Pouchi said. ‘They were having this intervention with him; his sister, his girlfriend and a group of his friends. They were all telling him these were the things they would say if he was dead.’

Ms Pouchi submitted the video along with a slogan her students created for a MattSafe contest in December. They won awards for both the slogan and the video.

The 30 second spot was then re-shot and revised with the help of Government Information Services for airing at the cinema and on television.

The Year 12 students depicted in the shortened video are: Kirsten Stewart, Shenice McField, Jonathan Jackson, and Michael Blackburn. All four graduate this spring.

Ms Pouchi hopes the use of her former students will lend credibility to the production.

‘I don’t think a commercial coming from me would make any more difference than newspaper articles coming from people they don’t know either,’ she said. ‘But if this commercial will make somebody who knows a friend or a cousin of somebody who has bad driving habits say something…I think that will make a difference.’

The 19-year-old teacher’s aide said the loss of one of her cousins, as well as former classmates and students in car accidents over the years inspired her to make the video.

‘They’re all so young and it’s all so personal to me that I just thought that we should say something to each other.’

Ms Pouchi doesn’t understate the problem on local roads.

So far this year Cayman has seen five road fatalities in four months from 4 January to 4 May. Four of the five victims were age 25 or younger.

In 2006, 14 people died in traffic accidents on Cayman Islands roads. The majority of those victims were Caymanians younger than 27.

MattSafe is not the first group to attempt to use the cinema to get the attention of young drivers. The police-sponsored Streetskill programme has also aired brief spots before feature films encouraging driver safety on Cayman’s roads.

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