Sign honoring Jennifer Metzger removed by NJDOT


Photo Credit: Photo via Darren Kopko under Creative Commons License

Pictured is Colonia Alum Jennifer Elizabeth Metzger. This is the sign on Route 9 that honored her, that has been taken down.

By: Dylan DaCunha, Editor-in-Chief

Colonia High School’s student, Jennifer Metzger, passed away May 14,  2009 in a fatal car crash as a result of speeding. The Metzger family put up a sign on Route 9 in Woodbridge, New Jersey where the crash occurred following the accident. The sign has been there for over ten years. It has recently come down by way of the New Jersey Department of Transportation

The accident

Metzger was 16 when she was a sophomore at Colonia High School. She was an avid bowler for the school. According to, Metzger had a 170 average with her highest scoring game being 257. She won first place in a state tournament two years prior. Metzger was also a cheerleader and wanted to pursue modeling. Her life was cut short in a single-car crash.

According to The Star Ledger Newspaper, “Woodbridge police and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office determined that (Allen) McGovern (18, of Rahway), who was driving a 1997 Ford Explorer north on the highway, apparently lost control of his vehicle, crashed into a guardrail and struck a tree, shortly before 8:46 p.m. In the accident, Metzger was the only fatality and was pronounced dead at the scene. The accident occurred as the teens were leaving the bowling alley on Rt. 9 north and heading to Wendy’s. Metzger was not driving the car and no alcohol or drugs were involved.

In Jennifer’s memory

The sign depicts Metzger in her Colonia cheerleading uniform with the phrase “Speed Kills!” in bright red lettering. Surrounding the words are butterflies and Metzger’s full name with her date of birth and death. The sign essentially honored Metzger’s after her death but also educates drivers about speeding on a busy highway riddled with reckless driving. Jennifer Metzger’s uncle is Darren Kopko. “The message that the sign was supposed to send to others is that speeding and reckless driving can cost you someone’s life,” Kopko adds.

Lisa Metzger, Jennifer’s mother was notified on August 25 by the Department of Transportation (DOT) about the sign. An employee from the DOT told her the sign was an ‘illegal advertisement.’ However, Metzger hadn’t been notified by officials before this occurrence. Her response was that the sign isn’t an advertisement; it is “a warning, reminder and an avenue for education!” Kopko added that NJDOT claiming it was an advertisement is ridiculous. “The family wasn’t selling anything, but rather trying to educate. It completely angers me because they were the ones who originally said it was okay to keep there…then almost 13 years later they decided to do this,” he mentioned.

Her tragic death shook the the school and the community. “I taught Jen in English her freshman year,” Mrs. Danielle Allen, teacher, recalled. “Her death truly impacted every student and teacher at Colonia High School and made us realize how precious life is.”

Finding a solution

An employee for the DOT says the removal of the sign was in preparation for an upcoming construction project in Woodbridge Township. Recently, Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac was in contact with Lisa Metgzer to inform her that the sign will not be put up in its original location. Six new signs will be put up at all three Woodbridge Township high schools. Two that read “SPEED KILLS” will be at the entrance and exit of Colonia High School. Additionally, two that show Jennifer’s picture and bring awareness will be erected at both Woodbridge and John F. Kennedy Memorial High Schools.

Metzger is not pleased that the sign will not continue to be on Route 9 which is the site of the accident. However, she is happy that the signs will continue to exist in some capacity, and she will not have to pay for them herself out of pocket. Metzger and McCormac are in conversation to implement other things at Colonia High where the deceased attended. 

The current sign is currently in Jennifer Metzger’s grandmother’s house. Kopko believes the mayor could have done better in his solution. Consequently, the person who killed Metzger wasn’t in high school, so the family is going to continue to fight to have the sign put in its original spot.

Supporting JEMMS

Besides the sign, the Metzger family has an organization committed to honoring Jennifer. Notably, the JEMMS Foundation is a non-profit organization. Its goal is to both honor Jennifer and bring light to the danger of speeding and its fatal consequences. They hope to educate and save others from speeding. You can learn more about the JEMMS Foundation here