DISTRACTED DRIVING is not a new problem, but it remains a serious one. It is, however, a problem that we can all combat together. It is as easy as putting away your phone while you are behind the wheel, setting an example for young drivers, and emphasizing one very simple message: no text, photo, email or social media post is worth a life — it can wait.

In an effort to engage young drivers and highlight the dangers of distracted driving, the Injury Prevention Center (IPC) at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock is hosting a Video PSA Creation Contest.

The contest encourages young creators to use their voice (and media-making skills) to create a 15-second video Public Service Announcement encouraging their peers to never drive distracted. The video submissions are being accepted from New Hampshire students grades 6 through 12, with prize money given to the winners. The contest is part of the IPC’s Teen Driver Program outreach effort, which is working to help put an end to smartphone distracted driving.

Students can enter the video PSA contest at NHteendrivers.com/2021-safe-driving-media-contest. Entries must be submitted by April 30th.

AT&T, a longstanding advocate in the national and local fight to curb distracted driving, provided financial support for the contest. AT&T began the It Can Wait program in 2009 to raise awareness of texting and driving. Over the past 10 years, the program has worked with local community and public safety leaders to host school assemblies and public events, conduct research and utilize resources such as virtual reality to inspire 40 million pledges — and counting — to not drive distracted.

AT&T and the New Hampshire Department of Safety are unified in our effort to reduce traffic crashes related to distracted driving. Over the past decade, concerns over distracted driving have persisted. AT&T research shows that nearly nine out of 10 people admit to using their smartphone while driving.

But research also shows that the problem is evolving and growing beyond just texting to social media, web surfing, snapping photos and video chatting. Nearly 64% of drivers take or view photos, 60% email and 47% surf the net while driving. Use of immersive content, such as video chatting and watching videos, while behind the wheel has nearly doubled since 2015; 86% of car-share drivers use their smartphones while driving; and four in 10 e-scooter or e-bike riders admit to riding distracted.

No matter how we get around, we’re doing it while distracted. The focus on just texting and driving needs to expand to include our constantly changing world of technology. That is why efforts like the IPC’s Video PSA contest are so important — it is giving kids an opportunity to use that same technology to fight back against distracted driving and make a difference.

And that is also why action from our state’s leaders is needed. Earlier this year, the New Hampshire House of Representatives introduced HB 424, a bill that would establish a commission to study ways to reduce texting while driving.

This is an important step, and we encourage the bill’s passage. We also encourage New Hampshire students to explore the details of the IPC’s Video PSA Contest and enter a submission. Student voices are critical in this effort. And we urge community leaders to share the contest information with teens and families in their areas. The more students that get involved, the more lives that could be potentially saved.

The message is simple: when it comes to distracted driving, no text, email, photo, or post is worth a life. It can wait.

Robert Quinn is the commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Safety. He lives in Seabrook. Owen Smith is president of AT&T for New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. He lives in Gorham, Maine.

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