Saint Paul, Minn. (January 19, 2011) – The Minnesota Department of Public Safety – Office of Traffic Safety is calling on teens to produce a “distracted driving” television public service announcement. The winning entry will received $1,000. The 2011 Don’t Drive Distracted, Teens! TV Commercial Challenge, in conjunction with AAA Minnesota/Iowa, is designed to have Minnesota teenagers shine their lights and aim cameras on the issue of distraction behind the wheel.
Minnesota teens in grades 9–12 are eligible to create and produce a 30-second TV spot to communicate the dangers associated with distracted driving – as well as solutions to avoiding distractions behind the wheel.
“Each year, Minnesota absorbs the sad and tragic impact serious injury and fatal teen crashes. These cases reinforce that teen drivers are inexperienced and remain the group most at risk on our roads,” says Gordy Pehrson, DPS youth programs coordinator. “The contest is one opportunity for teens to specifically address the distracted driving problem to their friends and classmates.”
The top spots will be selected by DPS and AAA Minnesota/Iowa for a public online vote in May 2011. AAA Minnesota/Iowa will award first-, second- and third-place finishers with $1,000, $600 and $400, respectively.
The winning spot will also make its television broadcast premiere on the MTV Video Music Awards this fall.
“While formed more than 100 years ago to work for general traffic safety issues, AAA has a particular interest in teen driver safety,” says Gail Weinholzer, Director of Public Affairs, AAA Minnesota/Iowa. “We are pleased to once again sponsor this worthwhile contest.”
Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teens — a group overrepresented each year due to driver inexperience, risk-taking behavior, distractions, nighttime driving, speeding and seat belt non-use. During 2007–2009, 107 teens (ages 16–19), were killed and another 565 were seriously injured in crashes.
Driver distraction is a leading factor in crashes in Minnesota, accounting for at least 21 percent of all crashes annually, resulting in at least 70 deaths and 350 injuries. DPS reports these numbers are vastly underreported due to officers’ challenges to determine “distraction” as a contributing crash factor.
DPS reports distractions cause drivers to react more slowly to traffic conditions, such as a vehicle stopping or pulling out in traffic. A University of Utah study reports that using a cell phone while driving, whether hands-free or hand-held, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having an alcohol-concentration level of 0.08 percent. And when texting, drivers take their eyes off the road for up to 4.6 out of every 6 seconds – equivalent to traveling the length of a football field at 55 mph hours without looking up.
DPS offers these tips to minimize distractions:
• Cell phones – turn off cell phones, or place them out of reach to avoid the urge to dial or answer. If a passenger is present, ask them to handle calls/texts.
• Music and other controls – pre-program favorite radio stations for easy access and arrange music (mp3 player/CDs/tapes) in an easy-to-access spot. Adjust mirrors and heat/AC before traveling, or ask a passenger to assist.
• Navigation – designate a passenger to serve as a co-pilot to help with directions. If driving alone, map out destinations in advance, and pull over to study a map.
• Eating and drinking – if you cannot avoid food/beverage, at least avoid messy foods, and be sure food and drinks are secured.
• Children – teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle; do not underestimate how distracting it can be to tend to children while driving.
• If you’re a passenger, speak up to stop drivers from distracted driving behavior and volunteer to handle music/other controls and answer calls/texts.
• If making or receiving a call to or from someone driving, ask them to call back when they are not behind the wheel.
The 2010 Don’t Text and Drive, Teens! winning spot was “Moms, Alcohol and Texting,” produced by students from Stillwater High School. Finalists from the 2010 contest may be viewed here (scroll down); or visit www.dps.state.mn.us/ots, click “Teen Drivers” on the left side of the page and scroll down.
The teen TV public service announcement contest is a component of the state’s core traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD). A primary vision of the TZD program is to sculpt a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes – education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.
Minnesota preliminary 2011 traffic deaths to-date is eight compared to 13 at this time in 2010. The preliminary 2010 death count is 414 with final figures coming later this year.