For the fourth year in a row, the Missouri Press Association (MPA), local Missouri newspapers and AT&T are joining together to host an It Can Wait editorial contest to raise awareness about the dangers of smartphone-related driving distractions. The contest begins on October 3 and is open to middle school and high school students from across Missouri.
According to research that AT&T released earlier this year, Missouri is one of four states without a statewide texting while driving ban for drivers of all ages. As a group, those four states without a texting ban for all ages have a 17 percent higher rate of texting while driving than the other 46 states. This year, the MPA contest challenges students to write an editorial or opinion column convincing the Missouri General Assembly to join the 46 other states by adopting a statewide anti-texting while driving ban that applies to all drivers – not just those 21 and younger.
“While raising awareness about the dangers of smartphone-related driving distractions is important, this research shows how state legislation can impact behavior,” said John Sondag, president, AT&T Missouri. “I want to thank the Missouri Press Association and its members for their continued efforts to educate their communities about this critical public safety issue and help spread the word that no text, photo, video or email is worth a life – it can wait.”
This year’s It Can Wait editorial contest is open to students enrolled in any Missouri public or private middle school or high school. Local newspapers have the option to host local contests and will determine which entries the MPA will consider for the statewide prize. The MPA will select two statewide winners and each will receive a cash prize – $1,000 for the winning high school entry and $500 for the winning middle school entry.
“We’ve seen how dangerous texting while driving can be and now we are seeing it with other smartphone activities that people are doing while driving. We want to do our part to help raise awareness and stop this dangerous behavior,” said Mark Maassen, executive director, Missouri Press Association. “By hosting the It Can Wait editorial contest with AT&T and our local member papers, the Missouri Press Association hopes to provide students with a meaningful learning experience and help make our Missouri roads safer by reinforcing the message to ‘keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone’.”
Texting while driving is involved in 200,000+ vehicle crashes each year, often involving injuries and death. Despite knowing the risks of texting while driving, three-fourths of drivers have admitted to it.
The MPA will announce the winning statewide entries for the middle school and high school categories on Nov. 17, 2016. In addition to the cash prize, the MPA will provide the winner of each category with a tour of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and the MPA Office. Winning students and their parents also will attend a dinner with the leadership of AT&T Missouri, the MPA and their local newspaper publisher.
Last year’s It Can Wait editorial contest generated significant exposure about the dangers of texting while driving. Local newspapers throughout Missouri solicited contest entries and two students, a senior at Liberty High School in Liberty, Mo., and a seventh grade student at Maryville Middle School in Maryville, Mo., were selected as the statewide winners of the contest.
AT&T launched the It Can Wait awareness campaign in 2010 to bring attention to the issue of texting while driving and recently expanded it to include other smartphone driving distractions that have emerged as users’ relationships with their devices have changed. The campaign urges drivers to visit www.ItCanWait.com, where they can pledge to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phone, and share their pledge with others via Twitter (#ItCanWait) and Facebook. The website also offers a host of educational resources and information on the issue – including a documentary featuring families impacted by texting and driving crashes.
To date, more than 2,500 organizations and tens of thousands of individuals have helped champion the It Can Wait cause. The It Can Wait pledge campaign has inspired more than 10 million personal commitments to never text and drive – many among friends and family who pledged to keep each other accountable.
It Can Wait Contest Details