Shen student designs billboard showing perils of drunken driving

A billboard designed by Shenendehowa student Madison Hayes is seen on Route 9 in Clifton Park.

PHOTOGRAPHER: ERICA MILLERA billboard designed by Shenendehowa student Madison Hayes is seen on Route 9 in Clifton Park. PHOTOGRAPHER: ERICA MILLER

By Kassie Parisi

Gazette Reporter

HALFMOON — Madison Hayes, a senior at Shenendehowa High School, wanted the billboard to be a jarring message about the deadly consequences of drunken driving.

Hayes was one of 55 Shen students who entered a graphic design competition to create a public service announcement billboard that would be displayed on Route 9, behind DeVoe’s Rainbow Orchard in Halfmoon.

Hayes’ winning design incorporated the word “weekend,” written half in black and half in red, along with a bloody arm extended on the side of a road. The billboard was unveiled Monday morning and will remain along Route 9 for about three weeks.

Hayes said her goal was to convey the raw and real consequences of drinking and driving. She said she didn’t feel wordplay was necessary.

“I was hoping that people would be a bit shocked by it,” she said. “I want people to know this is serious. I don’t want to play it off as funny, or as something that it’s not. I wanted to portray the raw, real deal of drinking and driving.”

The billboard will eventually be moved to other locations after it comes down at its debut site, according to Sallie Way, the graphic design teacher at Shen.

The School District teamed up with Lamar Advertising, the company that owns the billboard location, and the Kathleen A. Campion Foundation, to judge which of the 55 billboard designs would be displayed.

Student deaths caused by drunken driving is a topic with which Clifton Park, Shen and other local schools are very familiar.

In December 2012, two teenage students from the area were killed and two others were seriously injured in a car crash on the Northway.

Shen junior Matt Hardy and Shaker High School senior Bailey Wind survived the crash. Shen seniors Deanna Rivers and Chris Stewart did not.

Halfmoon resident Dennis Drue was eventually sentenced to five to 15 years in prison for being drunk and high when he hit the students’ car with his own. Drue was also texting at the time of the crash.

Hayes was not in high school when Rivers and Stewart were killed. But she isn’t convinced people take the dangers of drunken driving seriously.

“It’s obviously very devastating when you hear about young kids who had their whole lives ahead of them who got killed by a drunk driver, because they didn’t deserve that. No one deserves that,” she said. “I feel like it’s important because, obviously, it’s a very serious thing, and people don’t get the message that it really does hurt people.

“It can affect a lot of lives, so I think it’s important that it’s on the highway, or a busy road, so that people can understand.”

Drunken driving was not the only issue the students tackled. They also designed an image for an anti-bullying campaign that will be displayed on a Mohawk Honda van that will be displayed at the school for a time and then driven throughout town.

Way, who has been organizing the competition every year for the past 16 years, explained that the topics vary each year. Usually they relate to dangerous conduct in vehicles.

Students have designed billboards for texting while driving as well.

The bullying campaign was new this year, she said. The topic of bullying in schools is discussed frequently, and Way said she hopes the design on the van would lead to even more discussions.

“Bullying seemed appropriate, time-wise,” she said.

Madison McGill, also a senior at Shen, had the winning vehicle design. Her creation featured a prescription pill bottle with the word “bully” on it — the pills spilling out. Each pill had a word on it, including “fake,” “nerd,” and, “ugly.”

McGill said her goal was to demonstrate that words can have a dangerous impact. She was shocked that her design won, but she hopes students will see it and reflect on how easy it is to hurt others.

“I wanted it to be serious,” she said. “I mainly wanted to focus on the fact that words can kill.”