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Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship 2019 Winners Announced

October 23, 2019 by Steven M. Gursten

Four Michigan high school students are winners of our Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship with powerful messages about the dangers of distracted driving

Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship 2019 Winners

Our attorneys at Michigan Auto Law are proud to announce the winners of the 2019 Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship.

We chose to make this big announcement during National Teen Driver Safety Week because of how our Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship advances the mission of NTDSW which is to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving among teen drivers.

A total of $5,000 in college scholarships was awarded and shared among four winners for the creative and persuasive messages they created via video, graphic and Tweet to educate teen drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.

Our attorneys created this distracted driving awareness scholarship because we’ve been alarmed by the staggering increase we’ve seen in car accidents that are caused by people texting and driving distracted.

In fact, consider these troubling statistics from 2017 (the most recent data available):

  • In 2017, 297 people died in crashes that involved distracted teen (15 to 19) drivers.
  • In 2017, 229 teens (15 to 19) were killed in distraction-affected crashes.
  • In 2017, 271 teen (15 to 19) drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted.

(Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Teens and Distracted Driving – 2017,” Teen Distracted Driver Data)

While we speak at local high schools on distracted driving, we also know that messages resonate loudest when they come from other teens about the dangers of distracted driving.

The Kelsey’s Law scholarship was created to honor the life and memory of Kelsey Raffaele, and the incredible work of her mother Bonnie, who inspired and worked with lawmakers in the Michigan Legislature to enact Kelsey’s Law in this state. Kelsey’s Law prohibits Level 1 and Level 2 “graduated license” holders from using cell phones while driving. At 17 years of age, Kelsey’s life was cut short by a fatal distracted driving accident.

Kelsey’s mother Bonnie Raffaele of Sault Ste. Marie worked tirelessly to raise awareness of just how dangerous distracted driving is. Distracted driving poses an even higher risk for teen drivers.

Bonnie is an incredible woman. In addition to promoting her “Kids Driving Responsibly” program at schools, Bonnie also shares a “Put Your Phone on Ice” message at local hockey games. It has been a true honor working with Bonnie on the Kelsey’s Law Scholarship and in helping to spread safety awareness for drivers.

Let’s meet the winners of the 2019 Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship

Below are the four distracted driving awareness scholarship winners whose creative and compelling submissions will hopefully change the way people think about distracted driving and, thus, save lives.

Best Overall Winner: James Swanson III – West Iron County High School, Iron River, MI

Best Overall Winner James Swanson III - Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship for 2019
Pictured with James is Michigan Auto Law attorney Brandon Hewitt.

James graduated this past summer and now attends Columbia College in Chicago.

Best Video Winner: Cameon Wade – Troy Athens High School, Troy, MI

Best Video Winner Cameon Wade - Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship for 2019
Pictured with Cameon are Michigan Auto Law attorneys Larry Gursten (l) and Steven Gursten (r).

Cameon graduated this past summer and now attends Adrian College as a freshman, majoring in Film.

Best Graphic Winner: Owen Oszust – Plymouth High School, Plymouth, MI

Best Graphic Winner - Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship for 2019
Best Graphic Winner Owen Oszust - Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship for 2019
Pictured with Owen is Michigan Auto Law attorney Thomas James, Plymouth-Canton Community Schools Board Treasurer Patrick Kehoe, and Superintendent Monica Merritt.

Owen is a senior at Plymouth High School and will be graduating in the summer of 2020.

Best Tweet Winner: Olivia Zack – Starkweather Academy, Plymouth, MI

Best Tweet Winner - Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship for 2019
Best Tweet Winner Olivia Zack - Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship for 2019
Pictured with Olivia is Starkweather Academy Counselor Melissa Martin, Plymouth-Canton Community Schools Superintendent Monica Merritt, and Michigan Auto Law attorney Thomas James.

Olivia graduated this past summer and is now a freshman at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan.

Why is the Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship so important?

By inspiring young drivers to spread the word about distracted driving’s dangers, we will hopefully stop these following troubling statistics:

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • In 2017, the number of distracted driving crashes in Michigan were nearly twice as high as drunk driving crashes, according to Michigan State Police statistics gathered from traffic crash reports. “[T]here were 20,115 crashes in Michigan during 2017 involving distracted driving . . .,” according to the Michigan State Police (MSP)’s Criminal Justice Information Center (CJIC). Meanwhile, there were 10,265 “alcohol-involved” crashes in Michigan in 2017, according to the “2017 Michigan Traffic Crash Facts” (Statewide Report, Historical Information, “1 Year Summary”)

The 2020 Kelsey’s Law Scholarship — Stop Distracted Driving Contest is now open for submissions. The deadline to apply is March 31, 2020. To apply, visit our Kelsey’s Law Scholarship page.

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