Last week, I met a group of elementary school students in Minnesota, and I had a very clear safety message for them: "If you're riding in a car and the driver is texting or talking on the phone while driving, you tell them I said it's not safe."
And when I asked them if they would do that, if they would carry that important safety message home with them, they all nodded their heads enthusiastically and shouted, "Yes!"
That willingness to speak up is all the more important because, today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released new findings that indicate older kids--teens--are the least likely passengers to say something to their driver if he or she is texting or talking on a cell phone behind the wheel.
At the same time, we know that drivers in their teens report the highest level of phone involvement in crashes and near-crashes. And we know that young drivers are nearly three times more likely to be involved in sending or receiving a text at the time of an incident than drivers 25 and older.
So, when a NHTSA survey shows that 90 percent of passengers would consider a texting driver as very unsafe, it is troubling to learn that only one-third of younger passengers would actually speak up about it.
We can't control the deadly epidemic of distracted driving until we get drivers of all ages to speak up about the safety risks of texting or talking on a cell phone behind the wheel.
That's why DOT has launched a new social media icon contest for U.S. teens. The Distracted Driving Design Challenge invites students between the ages of 13 and 18 to create an original icon--with a distracted driving awareness message--that can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social networking sites.
The contest is open until July 31, and a panel of DOT experts and I will select the winning design. We're looking for icons that send a clear message: cell phones and driving don’t mix.
If you create the winning design, your work will be incorporated into our campaign to end distracted driving. This is your chance to help keep our roads safe for your family, your friends, and yourself.
So, get creative, design an eye-catching graphic that you’d be proud to show off on your favorite social network, and please send it in.
To learn more about the Distracted Driving Design Challenge visit challenge.gov.