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U.S. DOT launches contest to curb distracted driving among teens




May 2, 2012—U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently launched a new contest for students to design a social networking icon to help encourage young drivers to speak up when riding with a distracted driver.

Drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 report the highest level of phone involvement in crash or near-crash incidences, according to a recent survey of more than 6,000 U.S. drivers conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That age group is roughly three times more likely to read or send text messages or e-mails while driving compared to people ages 25 and older. Reports of texting while driving drop sharply as age increases, the NHTSA said.

Although 90 percent of survey respondents consider drivers who send text messages or emails to be unsafe, the survey revealed that young people are the least likely group of passengers to speak up. The NHTSA said about 33 percent of passengers ages 18 to 24 would say something to a driver using a handheld phone, compared to 50 percent of passengers ages 65 and older.

"Distracted driving is an epidemic on our roadways, and these new findings show that our youngest drivers are particularly at risk,” LaHood said. "We're encouraging young people across America to commit to distraction-free driving, spread the word to their family and friends, and speak up if the driver in their car is distracted."

LaHood launched a Distracted Driving Design Challenge in order to raise awareness among young drivers about the dangers of cell phone use behind the wheel. The Distracted Driving Design Challenge invites teens to create an original icon with an anti-distracted driving message that can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social networking sites, the NHTSA said.

The contest, which will accept submissions through July 31, is open to all U.S. students ages 13 to 18. The winning design will be selected by Secretary LaHood and a panel of U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) experts, and will be incorporated into the DOT’s distracted driving campaign.

For more information about the Distracted Driving Design Challenge, including submission details, visit Distraction.gov or Challenge.gov.

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