Abigail Chaney, 18, a senior at Lighthouse Preparatory Academy in Jefferson City, and Kate Freitag, 18, a senior at Washington High School in Washington, are the statewide winners of the It Can Wait (distracted driving) Essay and Video Contest, sponsored by Missouri newspapers, the Missouri Press Association and AT&T Missouri.
Chaney was the winner of the essay portion of the contest and will receive $1,000, while Freitag won the video contest and will receive $500 as prizes in the statewide competition. Their entries were submitted to the state contest after being submitted to local contests sponsored by the Jefferson City News-Tribune and Washington Missourian.
“Our goal is to share and reinforce this simple message — keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone. While many tragedies are out of our control, the ones caused by smartphone driving distractions are completely preventable,” said Craig Unruh, president, AT&T Missouri. “I want to thank the Missouri Press Association for leading the way to help educate students and I want to thank all of those who took the time to participate in the contest. By working together, we can help change behavior and make our Missouri roadways safer for everyone.”
This is the sixth time Missouri newspapers, MPA and AT&T have teamed up for the contest.
"On behalf of the Missouri Press Association and its member newspapers, I wish to thank AT&T for this partnership aimed at saving lives on our roadways," said James White, president of MPA and publisher of the The Benton County Enterprise, Warsaw. "Abigail’s essay and Kate’s video are excellent and sobering, urging all drivers to avoid texting while driving."
Chaney, the daughter of JoDonn and Kirsten Chaney, will be awarded $1,000, while Freitag, daughter of John and Lorie, will receive $500 when they and their guests visit the Missouri Press Association headquarters June 11 in Columbia. Their day will include a tour of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and lunch with representatives from the school, newspapers, AT&T Missouri and MPA.
Each year in the United States, hundreds of people are killed and tens of thousands are injured due to smartphone distracted driving, Unruh said.
Despite knowing the risks of texting while driving, one in three teens who text say they have done so while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. However, there is an opportunity to change this behavior, Unruh said. 57 percent of drivers say they would stop if a friend in the car asked them, and 74 percent of those who have taken the pledge to not drive distracted are keeping their commitment to not use their smartphones behind the wheel.