Bill Signed in Loving Memory of Eleven Year Old
August 4, 2015 will go down in New Jersey history as a bittersweet day because of the Badlani family’s tireless efforts after a tragic loss. On that beautiful, sunny morning, Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno signed Nikhil’s Law.
In 2011, Sunil Badlani and his 11 year old son, Nikhil, were traveling in their van in South Orange. As they approached an intersection just two miles from the family’s home, a distracted driver ran a stop sign. The driver’s car crashed into the Badlani’s van, causing the van to roll over and be hit again by an oncoming car.
Sunil was treated for injuries. Tragically, Nikhil was killed.
“We have a void in our hearts,” said Sangeeta, Nikhil’s mother. “We are still a family, but will be forever changed.”
Shortly after Nikhil’s funeral, Sunil and Sangeeta began the Nikhil Badlani Foundation (NBF). NBF’s mission is to raise traffic safety awareness and help prevent car crashes from devastating other families.
Nikhil’s Law requires the Motor Vehicle Commission to include an additional question on the driver’s license examination. Applicants will be asked if they are aware of the dangers of failing to follow New Jersey’s motor vehicle traffic laws.
Additionally, drivers are given the option to take the “STOP for Nikhil Safety Pledge.” This affirms the applicant’s commitment to traffic safety and the safety of others.
The principles of the pledge are to:
- obey traffic laws,
- come to a complete stop at stop signs and red traffic lights,
- stay alert
- talk safe (to use a hands-free cell phone system while driving, and not text or use a handset unless pulled over)
- plan ahead before driving. (give yourself an extra five minutes to get to any destination)
Before being signed, the bill passed both chambers unanimously.
“To lose a loved one due to the negligence of someone else’s action is devastating,” said Sangeeta. “We continue to grieve for Nikhil. Think of families like us when you fail to obey traffic laws.”
During the bill signing, Guadagno shared some staggering statistics. In 2014, there were 265,000 car crashes, nearly 76,000 traffic injuries and 556 deaths on New Jersey roadways.
“I wish I didn’t have to be here today, but the statistics are unacceptable,” said Guadagno. “They (the Badlani family) opened a wound to save other people. Their son is not simply statistic. Every child, including my own, will take the pledge.”
Family members and friends shared beautiful memories of Nikhil with the crowd on August 4.
“I’m sure Nikhil is smiling down on us right now and is happy to see the progress,” said an emotional Sunil. “But something tells me he’d rather be here witnessing this bill being signed with us, without his name on it.”
To engage young people further, NBF offers their Traffic Safety Artwork project, allowing students to create artwork with traffic safety awareness messages. The program, funded by State Farm, encourages young people to be creative while sharing an important message with their communities.
Students translate their ideas into sketches, which are then transformed into colorful murals with the help of local artist, Cindy Klein.
The artwork is displayed at the school or a public place, such as the town library or shopping plaza. Public service announcements using the artwork are also displayed on NJ Transit buses, light rail and train stations throughout Essex County.
Additionally, NBF’s Music for Nikhil program, inspired by Nikhil’s love of music, provides free music lessons to need-based, musically talented West Orange students.
NBF also created the Nikhil Badlani Scholarship Fund, which gives scholarships to West Orange High School seniors who demonstrate academic achievement, good character, artistic ability, and community involvement.
“Nikhil spoke very passionately about how some drivers did not respect the rules of the road,” said Sunil. “His loss cannot be in vain and should be an awakening to all drivers on the road.”
To read the December 2014 story about the Badlani family, click here.