Videos to prevent distracted driving

If you're in a car crash, chances are, a distracted driver was involved.

Distracted driving, including using a cell phone, is a factor in about 80 percent of accidents, according to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Catawba County officials want to prevent that from happening.

Members of the Child Fatality Prevention Team, Community Protection Team and Catawba County Youth Council joined together for a distracted driving video contest that encourages teens to concentrate behind the wheel.

"Drivers already have a lot on their mind when they get behind the wheel," said Jennifer McCracken, health services manager at Catawba County Public Health and co-chair of the Community Child Protection Team/Fatality Task Force. "The use of a cell phone is an unnecessary and added distraction. We hope that teens will either turn off the phone while driving or refrain from using it while driving. A text or call is not worth their life."

According to the 2010 Catawba County State of the County Health Report, injuries sustained during motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for people ages birth to 39.

A recent report by the U.S. Transportation Department said more than 5,400 people in 2010 died in 4,898 car crashes linked to distracted driving. The number of deaths decreased since 2008, but for the groups involved in the distracted driving campaign, one death is too many.

Individual students, as well as groups of up to five students can participate in the project. Teens are encouraged to display more than one element of distracted driving, including texting, eating in the car and carrying too many passengers.

Amy Beane, a drama teacher at Newton-Conover High School, will make a video with her students.

"My class is making at least one video," she said.

And although the videos aren't completed, students already seem to have taken the contest's message to heart.

"If you don't pay attention, you're going to end up seriously damaging your car or someone else's," said 17-year-old NCHS junior Jordan Propst. "I don't need anymore distractions."

A Distracted Driving Committee will review the submissions and determine a grand-prize entry and a viewer's choice entry.

Winners from the grand-prize entry will enjoy a limousine ride to a local restaurant, complete with lunch. The viewer's choice entry will receive a certificate.

"We are seeing fatalities of teenagers in which distracted driving was a factor, and we are trying to do our part to raise awareness of the issue," said Catawba County Department of Social Services director John Eller. "We would love to see a decrease in the number of teen fatalities related to distracted driving."

Contest guidelines include:

-Avoiding distracted driving in a moving vehicle;
-Limiting videos to 90 seconds or shorter;
-Using Windows Movie Maker or iMovie is permitted;
-Including a photo-release and liability form with video submission.
For more information about the contest, visit www.facebook.com/pages/Distracted-Driving-Video-Contest.

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