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Simulator drives home dangers of distracted driving

| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 9:45 p.m.

Fox Chapel Area students will see first-hand how distracted driving has become an epidemic when a simulator comes to the high school in February.

“I believe it's always good to remind kids to think before they might make dangerous decision when it comes to driving,” said Erin Butkovic, science teacher and director of student activities.

The equipment, which allows students to experience the effects of distracted driving, isn't the only tool used to drive home the safety message.

Students are encouraged to enter the seventh annual “Words to be Heard” scholarship contest, where they can win up to $5,000 for pressuring their peers to pay attention while behind the wheel.

Graduating seniors can submit program ideas that would prevent classmates from drinking or texting while driving.

Sponsored by Edgar Snyder & Associates, the contest aims to drive down numbers that include 3,092 people killed in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2010, according to the government website distraction.com.

About 11 percent of motorists under the age of 20 who were involved in fatal crashes in 2010 were reported to be distracted. It's the largest group of drivers reported to be distracted during crashes, according to the website.

Edgar Snyder Marketing Specialist Katie Conlon said the law firm is asking students to create programs that will discourage their peers from underage drinking, drunk driving or texting while driving. Students can submit entries using options that include videos, power point presentations, brochures, websites, essays or another original approach.

The entries will be reviewed by a panel that will award a top prize of $5,000, three second-place prizes of $2,500 and three runner-up scholarships at $1,000 each.

“We designed the scholarship contest so teens would think about how they can influence their peers to prevent tragedies. It's a way to raise community support and awareness, while offering students a chance to earn a college scholarship,” Snyder said.

Since 2007, the firm has given 56 scholarships worth a total of $70,500.

At Fox Chapel Area, the contest has been available to students for three years.

“It might be easy to want to send a text while driving but it can cause much bigger problems,” Butkovic said. “Of course, no students should be drinking at all ... especially if they are going to be driving.”

The deadline to enter is March 29.

For more information on the rules, visit www.edgarsnyder.com/scholarship or call 1-800-394-3660, ext. 4412.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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