Be the Key
In Memory of Jane
17-year-old Jane Modlesky was the funniest and sweetest person they had ever known, her friends and family said. About to enter her senior year at Glastonbury High School in Connecticut, Jane was a top-performing scholar and volunteer.. She was also a high performingan athlete, competing incompete select Lacrosse teams and tournaments.
“Everyone knew Jane,” shared her best friend, Audrey Apanovitch. “Whenever she met someone, they instantly became friends. Everyone looked up to her, including me. She was one of a kind.”
Sadly, on July 14, 2013, the unfortunate decisions of several young people cut Jane’s life short.
After leaving a party, Jane and four other teenagers got into a car, taking turns driving to their respective homes. Jane was the last to take the wheel, although she was in no condition to drive. A half mile later, Jane crashed into a tree and died.
“When I learned of Jane’s crash, I was in a state of shock,” explains Jane’s mother, Cammi Modlesky. “You never think it’s going to happen to your family. I trusted my daughter immensely and this type of behavior was not the norm for Jane. She had so much potential, had so much to live for, and was loved by so many.”
As Audrey watched her tight-knit community come to terms with everything, she noticed a need for increased education on Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) teen driver safety laws. Hoping to fill this gap, she founded Be the Key.
With help from Connecticut Children’s Medical Center researchers, Audrey examined high school student parking passes. She learned 88% of parking pass applications did not outline GDL laws.
Audrey realized, while many knew these laws existed, few knew all of the guidelines. In Connecticut, for instance, new drivers are restricted from driving with passengers, other than parents or instructors, for the first six months.
“Glastonbury students must now sign up for Be the Key to earn the privilege of parking at the high school,” says Audrey. “They agree to follow the laws, such as being home by curfew and not driving with too many passengers. There’s also a passenger section, where applicants pledge to not distract drivers.”
Approximately 700 students participated this year.
The student board of Be the Key has also prompted discussions on teen driver safety education. They even added a lesson about GDL laws to the sophomore health class. Additionally, the school now gives driving students color-coded hang tags which serve as a visual reminder of their GDL status restrictions.
“Some may look at these laws as restrictions on their freedoms, but they’re really about good life choices and keeping us safe,” Added Audrey.
“Audrey has taken a courageous stand,” says Cammi. “Before Jane died, there was a lot of misunderstanding about safe driving issues. Audrey knows the positive impact of GDL laws and isn’t afraid to let her voice be heard. It’s unfortunate it’s taken the tragic death of my daughter to make others stand up and take notice.”
Looking to expand Be the Key throughout Connecticut, Glastonbury High School took part in State Farm’s Celebrate My Drive (CMD) program. CMD was designed to celebrate new teen drivers and encourage smart choices behind the wheel.
Many plans are in progress to encourage awareness, including a community kick-off event featuring bands, local celebrities, obstacle courses, free food, a large social media push, and even assistance from across the pond.
Be the Key’s Celebrate My Drive committee reached out to and confirmed support from the mayor of their “sister city,” Glastonbury, England. Additionally, Audrey and other Board members will speak with the entire student body the first day of National Teen Driver Safety Week to encourage their safe driving commitments.
“My cousin, who also lost a child, once used the analogy that young people, because of their inexperience, don’t have back roads; they only travel on superhighways,” adds Cammi. “After seeing how Glastonbury High School’s students had to grow up so quickly after Jane’s death, I realized they now have the experience of back roads.”