WASHINGTON, DC — As part of Global Youth Traffic Safety Month, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Mazda Motorsports, the Ad Council and the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) announced the six high school and college winners of their second annual Project Yellow Light scholarship contest. “One Text or Call Could Wreck It All,” was the theme of this year’s contest.
Entrants were asked to develop and produce a short video that would depict for their peers the dangers of risky mobile behavior on our Nation’s roadways. The high school grand prize was awarded to Brittany Devasure, a senior from North Carolina, for her video. For the first time, the contest was open to college students. Rachel Hall, who studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music, was recognized as the grand prize winner for her video.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2011, eleven percent of all drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of driv¬ers who were distracted.
“Distracted driving is a national epidemic, and our youngest drivers are particularly at risk,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We know that young drivers listen to their friends, which makes the Project Yellow Light ads so powerful. Today’s scholarship winners have helped raise awareness of the dangers of texting while driving, and are potentially saving the lives of other teen drivers as well.”
Second place prizes were awarded to high school senior Sophie Koorhan of Pennsylvania and Katherine Duffy, a student at the University of Southern California. Third place prizes were given to high school senior Joanne Ly of California and Rahul Sharma, a college student at New York University.
“Peer to peer messages have a powerful impact on young people,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “Thanks to the help of Project Yellow Light and the Ad Council, teens are reaching teens directly to emphasize the importance of keeping their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel, and their focus on driving at all times.”
All of the winners will receive college scholarships and One-Day Teen Survival Skills Classes at the Skip Barber Racing School, provided by Mazda Motorsports. Additionally, the first place winners’ videos will be digitally distributed to air as PSAs by the Ad Council to their network of more than 1,500 TV stations nationwide.
“As racers we know about driver safety and take the subject very seriously. With our extensive team of teenage race drivers, and our longstanding partnership with the Skip Barber Racing School, active support of Project Yellow Light was a natural fit for Mazda Motorsports. It was great to have Ben Albano, Kenton Koch, and Elliott Skeer, three of our young racers, participate in the judging process. Everyone at Mazda was impressed with both the quality and quantity of entries this year, and we were happy that our support allowed the Project Yellow Light team to add a category for college students,” said John Doonan, Director, Mazda Motorsports, Mazda North American Operations.
Established in 2007, Project Yellow Light is a video contest and scholarship program established by Julie Garner, of The Martin Agency, in memory of her teenage son Hunter Garner who was killed in a car crash that year. Project Yellow Light was developed to encourage teens to be safe when first taking on the road.
“Young people have the ability to reach each other in a unique voice that connects and resonates – and the more they continue to spread the word on safe driving habits; and the more we give them ‘ownership’ of trying find a solution to the problem; they will find a solution,” said Julie Garner.
This year’s contest ran from November 2012 through March 2013 and received nearly 500 submissions.
“Today we congratulate all of the young adults who submitted videos to empower their peers to put down their phones while driving,” said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “With DOT leading the way, and the many partners involved with Project Yellow Light, we can work together to keep our nation’s youth safe on our roads and highways throughout the U.S.”
“Empowering youth to develop messages that will reach their peers through projects like Project Yellow Light provides them opportunities to learn about current youth issues and engages them to be part of the solution,” said Sandy Spavone of NOYS. “The quality of the messages developed by youth and their work to prevent distracted driving is inspirational; together they lead their generation to put the phone down when driving.”