When I talk about stopping distracted driving, I often point out my concern that some of our youngest, least experienced drivers are the most inclined to text at the wheel.
So it's only fair that I also point out some young people who are doing something to stop this deadly practice. And I want to start by thanking The Lakeland Ledger 2009 Student Editorial Contest and the 485 students who submitted contest entries.
(If you've been following on Facebook, you may have seen me mention these winners, but I think you'll like the video below of Morgan reading her winning entry.)The winning entry in the Elementary School category was written by 5th grader Morgan Snyder who supplied a range of compelling statistics in wisely asserting a crucial fact that many over-confident drivers ignore: "Cell phone use while driving is more of a mental distraction than a physical one."
The second place winner in the Middle School category was 8th grader Julia Preziosi, whose column opens by asking, "Is that cell phone message really to die for?" Her conclusion answers that question firmly: "Dying because of text messaging isn't worth it."
Third place in the High School category went to 10th grader Adam Bookhamer, who writes, "There is no reason a safe driver should have to worry about distracted drivers creating a hazardous environment."
Adam, I couldn't agree with you more.
Now, as much as I worry about the terrible jeopardy distracted drivers impose on the rest of us, I am greatly heartened by the civic engagement shown by these Florida students.
And I know that, as long as we have smart, committed people like these young writers on our side, we will reduce this unsafe practice and make our roads safer for everyone.
So please join me in thanking The Ledger and these fine winners for sending the safest message of all: In the car? Off the phone!