Rain was falling during the Grand Prix of Baltimore this past weekend, but Indy Car driver Ryan Hunter-Reay stayed focused and took the checkered flag at the end of 75 laps in and around Charm City. And though the weather was on their minds, you can bet that not one of the drivers in Sunday's race was distracted by a cell phone call or text message. They all know that focused driving is safe driving.
Last Friday in Baltimore, they joined Deputy Secretary John Porcari and National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland to launch a new video challenge that invites teens to produce a public service announcement (PSA) against distracted driving. The winning PSAs will be announced as part of Global Youth Traffic Safety Month® in May 2013 and will air on television stations nationwide this spring.
We know that young people are especially vulnerable to distracted driving. According to a recent NHTSA nationwide study, young drivers 18 to 20 years old were most likely to be using a phone at the time of a crash. Even more alarming, 20 percent said that sending text messages or e-mails made no difference at all in their driving.
That's why we're reaching out to young people to help us raise awareness about the dangers of texting or talking on a cell phone behind the wheel. As Deputy Secretary Porcari said, "As the father of teenagers myself, I know that the most effective message often comes from another teen. They listen to each other, making this contest particularly powerful in the fight to end distracted driving."
Watch the winning entries from last year's contest
But people, especially young people, continue to be killed and injured as a result of distracted driving, despite the fact that these deaths are 100 percent preventable.
So, I look forward to seeing the entries, and I encourage teens across the country to submit an anti-distraction video of their own. Anyone can visit projectyellowlight.com or distraction.gov for more information.
The bottom line is this: When you take your focus off the road – even if just for a moment – you put your life, and the lives of others, in danger. Distracted driving is unsafe. It’s irresponsible. And, in a split second, one text or call can wreck it all.
But it is preventable. Working together, we can educate our teens on the dangers of distracted driving, and we can save lives.