Red Cloud High School students use artistic talents to promote driving safety

posted on January 18, 2011

Students from Red Cloud High School were recognized by the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety and Pine Ridge Indian Health Services-Injury Prevention for their graphic artwork to promote safe driving among Native Americans. For the second year in a row, students in Teacher Matt Rama’s Introduction to Arts: Audio and Visual Technology designed logos and posters to encourage the community to wear seatbelts, use car seats for children and stop text messaging while driving.

“Studies show that people respond better to advertisements if the photos and designs relate to the individual on a personal level,” says Jen Franks, injury prevention specialist at Pine Ridge Indian Health Services. “We knew of the work being done in Matt’s class, so we jumped at the opportunity to work with him and his students on this project.”

Red Cloud students designed a number of safe driving posters that were cultural-based, including showing proper usage of car seats with actual photos of Lakota children.

Franks says two years ago the safety organization featured members of the Red Cloud boys’ basketball team on a poster for seatbelt safety. “Our best game is on the road,” the poster read, which was distributed across the state of South Dakota.

“Last year was the first year students contributed their computer talents to provide us with seatbelt safety posters,” she continues. “The response was phenomenal. Everyone wanted them: hospitals, public safety departments and many others.”

Red Cloud High School Senior Sonja Clifford even designed a logo for the injury prevention program. She says it was really exciting to be asked to do the project.

“These projects are important because they create an awareness of safety for our people,” Clifford says.

According to Lieutenant Richard Greenwald, supervisor at the Highway Safety Division, last year the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation had 20 fatal car accidents, 86 percent of which could have been prevented if people were wearing their seatbelts. That’s why, he says, contributions like this are important.

“It was Red Cloud students who first came up with these ideas and I’m not sure they know what kind of an impact they have,” says Greenwald. “The number of people wearing seatbelts on the reservation and across South Dakota is increasing.”