Groups launch ‘It Can Wait’ essay contest

The Kansas Press Associ­ation, local Kansas newspapers, the Kansas Depart­ment of Transpor­ta­tion and AT&T are joining to conduct an “It Can Wait” editorial essay contest to raise awareness about the dangers of smartphone-related driving distractions.

The contest, which kicked off April 1, is open to middle school and high school students from across Kansas and provides students with the opportunity to win a $500 prize for a column or editorial that best answers the question: “Why is it important to take the It Can Wait pledge to keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone?”

“We’ve decided to participate for a second time in this program because we’ve unfortunately become far too accustomed to reading stories about how dangerous texting while driving and other smartphone activities can be,” said Doug Anstaett, KPA executive director. “We want to do our part to help raise awareness and stop this dangerous behavior.”

Anstaett said by hosting the It Can Wait editorial contest with AT&T, KDOT and KPA member papers, the press association hopes to provide students with a meaningful learning experience and “help make our Kansas roads safer by reinforcing the message ‘Keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone.’”

Texting while driving is involved in more than 200,000 vehicle crashes each year, often involving injuries and death. New research shows seven in 10 people engage in smartphone activities while driving. Texting and emailing are still the most prevalent.

But other smartphone activity use behind the wheel is now common. Among social platforms, Facebook tops the list, with more than a quarter of those polled admitting they use the app while driving. About one in seven said they’re on Twitter behind the wheel.

Despite knowing the risk, 43 percent of teens admit to texting while driving. However, there is an opportunity to change this behavior as 90 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.

“I want to thank the Kansas Press Association and its members for their efforts to help raise awareness about the dangers of smartphone driving distractions,” said Molly Kocur Boyle, director of public affairs for AT&T Kansas.

“Local newspapers play a powerful role in educating their communities about important public safety issues. By encouraging participation in the It Can Wait editorial contest, the KPA and local newspapers are providing a great public service and we are proud to have them help us spread the word that no text, photo, video or email is worth a life—it can wait.”

The It Can Wait editorial contest is open to students enrolled in any Kansas public or private middle school or high school.

All entries will be submitted to It Can Wait Essay Contest, Kansas Press Association, 5423 S.W. 7th St., Topeka, KS 66606. The contest entry deadline is May 1, 2017. Entries also may be sent by email to danstaett@kspress.com.

KPA will announce the winning statewide entries for the middle school and high school categories on May 8, 2017.

And the It Can Wait pledge campaign has inspired more than 7 million personal commitments to never text and drive—many among friends and family who pledged to keep each other accountable.

To take the pledge and see a list of supporters, visit ItCanWait.com. For additional information and resources, visit att.com/itcanwait.