High school students in Missouri have a chance to win $500 in a program to cut down texting while driving. Three Rivers Publishing is also giving away $200 to an area student.
John Sondag, president of AT&T Missouri, announced the contest September 6 at the Missouri Press Association (MPA) convention in Kansas City.
"I am proud to announce that AT&T, the Missouri Press Association and local member newspapers have the opportunity to partner together on a meaningful contest, which will challenge Missouri high school students across the state to write an editorial or opinion column highlighting the dangers of texting while driving and encouraging their peers to take the It Can Wait pledge," Sondag said.
Mark Maassen of The Kansas City Star and president of the MPA, invited Missouri newspapers to sponsor the contest in their communities. Three Rivers Publishing, parent company of the Cuba Free Press, Saint James Press and Steelville Star-Crawford Mirror, took up the challenge and is sponsoring the contest in four local high schools.
Texting while driving is an epidemic. More than 100,000 crashes a year involve drivers who are texting, often causing life-changing injuries and deaths, Sondag said. Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be in an accident.
Despite knowing the risks of texting while driving, 43 percent of teens admit to texting while driving. However, there is an opportunity to change this behavior, he said. Ninety percent of teen drivers say they would stop if a friend in the car asked them and 78 percent say they are likely not to text and drive if friends tell them it is wrong.
Local newspapers, along with the MPA and AT&T, will sponsor and challenge Missouri high school students across the state to write an editorial or opinion column highlighting the dangers of texting while driving and encouraging their peers to take the "It Can Wait" pledge.
Students will write an editorial or opinion column about the dangers of texting while driving. The piece will answer the question, "Why is it important to take the It Can Wait pledge to never text and drive?" The piece will highlight the dangers of texting while driving.
The piece must include the following call to action, "Take the pledge to never text and drive at ItCanWait.com."
A local winner, who will receive $200, will be selected from among all entries and then forwarded to the state finals. A state winner will be announced on November 1. The state winner will receive $500, a tour of the MU School of Journalism and the Missouri Press Association, and dinner for their student and their guests with leadership of AT&T, MPA and their local newspaper publisher.