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Our annual teen distracted driving scholarship contest is on

August 4, 2017 by Steven M. Gursten

Michigan Auto Law is awarding $5,000 in scholarships to high school teens who can craft the best message to their peers on teen distracted driving dangers

Teen distracted driving

Texting while driving is now the top killer of teens. One in five young adult drivers in Michigan claims to be “addicted” to being on a cellphone. And 41% of young adult drivers admit to sending texts and emails on a regular basis while driving.

The science is increasingly clear that driving while distracted by a cell phone may be even more dangerous than driving drunk.  These distracted drivers are also the ones who don’t have enough driving experience behind the wheel. That’s a deadly combination.

As an auto accident attorney, I see firsthand how dangerous cellphones can be. Cellphones and texting are increasingly the cause of many of the car crashes that I litigate.

Scholarship to stop distracted driving

So our Michigan Auto Law attorneys are asking Michigan’s high school students to create the most persuasive safety messages for their peers, answering this question: How can you stop driving distracted? We’re giving scholarships to four Michigan high school students whose messages on curbing teen distracted driving are the most effective, as we enter the second year of our Kelsey’s Law Scholarship: Stop Distracted Driving Contest.

The contest is open through August. We’ll announce our 2017 winners in October.

Teen distracted driving scholarship named in 17-year-old’s memory

The scholarship is named for Kelsey Raffaele, a Sault Ste. Marie resident who in 2010 was killed in a car accident that involved her cellphone. She was only 17 years old.

In the aftermath of this tragic loss, Bonnie Raffaele, Kelsey’s mother, became a world-renowned advocate for preventing distracted driving car accidents. She pushed local legislators to pass Michigan’s teen driving law — dubbed “Kelsey’s Law” — in 2013, in an effort to reduce teen car accident deaths related to distracted driving.

Under the law, teen drivers with a Level 2 graduated license — meaning they are allowed to drive a motor vehicle without an adult in the state of Michigan — are prohibited from using a cellphone while driving. Teen drivers who violate the law will receive a civil infraction and up to $295 in fines and costs.

Our Michigan Auto Law attorneys are passionate about stopping teen distracted driving

Teens make up the group that has the highest risk of dying in car accidents. Texting while driving is the No. 1 cause of both teenage car accidents and deaths on the road in the U.S., according to the Cohen Children’s Medical Center.

When I learned about Kelsey’s tragic death, and how her loss led Bonnie to push our lawmakers in Lansing to pass Michigan’s first teen cellphone-driving law, I was moved to have the attorneys in my law firm adopt Bonnie’s mission.

Our auto accident attorneys have represented clients and their families who have been devastated by car accidents caused by distracted driving. We don’t want any more precious, young lives lost because a text message or some other personal distraction was more important than watching the road.

Tell us and your peers how to change things for the safer

If you’re a parent of teens, you probably know that your children won’t always, if ever, be receptive to anything you tell them is for their “own good.” But if their peers are delivering safety messages like saying no to the cellphone behind the wheel? Now that’s the breakthrough we need.

So we want to reach out to as many Michigan teens, parents and educators as possible to help spread the word about our scholarship program. Here’s how it works.

In October 2017, at least $5,000 worth of scholarships will be awarded to four Michigan high school students.

Applicants are asked to submit a persuasive safety message that shows how they would convince young drivers to reduce distractions while driving. The safety message can be via YouTube video, tweet or a graphic.

The contest is open to high school seniors and juniors attending any public or private Michigan high school.

The deadline to submit entries is August 31, 2017.

Winners will be announced during the week of October 15, 2017, to coincide with National Teen Driver Safety Week. Awards will be applied toward tuition at any university, college or technical school in the U.S. for higher education.

To apply for the scholarship and for further details, please visit Michiganautolaw.com/scholarships/kelseys-law/. You may view last year’s winning submissions here.

Good luck to all of our entrants.

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