BURRILLVILLE, RI (WPRI) – Jim Weichending’s hands can turn a blank page into a colorful but stern warning.
It is sharply different from what he hopes to help young drivers avoid.
“Not only are they texting and driving and putting themselves in harms way, they’re not wearing seat belts either,” Weichending said. “We have to help them drive safely.”
The Safe and The Serious campaign involves muscle cars and other images that might be attractive to kids and teens, paired with messages about slowing down, buckling up and not texting behind the wheel. The program is now in school departments from here to Boston and is getting national recognition as well.
“That’s what’s important to me, to make sure the message is conveyed,” Weichending said.
The roots of that message start in his childhood. Weichending was in and out of hospitals as doctors tried to correct the damage from Cerebral Palsy.
“I spent two birthdays in a body cast,” he said.
He tells us many of the other children and teens in the hospital when he was there were car crash victims, who didn’t always survive.
“They were your friends. They were my friends. I made friends with them because we spent days, weeks months together,” Weichending said. “They had to explain to me why my friend Tommy wasn’t coming back to the ward. And six years old is too young to understand what death is.”
The Safe and The Serious is aimed at helping as many as possible avoid facing that reality of what driving carelessly can cause.
“It’s a consistent day to day reminder and after a while it actually sinks into these kids,” Weichending said.
One stat he would like to have an impact on – the fact that car wrecks continue to be among the top killers of teenagers.