Billboards encouraging safe driving, designed by Wellington High School students, will soon be on display.
Wellington police and Peggy Karolak of State Farm Insurance, 805 Patriot Dr., worked to secure a $2,500 teen driving safety grant through State Farm with portions of that funding cash prizes for the winning students as well as WHS art classes.
Taking home first place and $250 was sophomore Jordan McKee. Fellow sophomore Jillian Sizer earned second place and $150, and senior Drew Donovan finished third and won $100.
All three winners’ billboard designs addressed texting and driving, which according to the National Safety Council accounts for 11 deaths per day among teen drivers.
In the coming months, the billboards are expected to be put up on routes 58 and 18.
“So many people our age use their phones too much and it can get you into trouble in many different ways,” McKee said. “My billboard shows a girl driving and texting with the Grim Reaper sitting in the passenger seat.”
“People will text and drive and not only hurt themselves in a crash but also someone else,” said Sizer. “I figured that’s a really important thing to talk about. I thought a phone holding the steering wheel was a good depiction because the phone kind of takes over for someone like that while they’re driving.”
According to a AAA poll, 94 percent of teens agree that texting and driving is dangerous but 35 percent admitted to doing it anyway.
Karolak thanked police Lt. Jeff Shelton and WHS art teacher Kaitlyn Krajcik for the roles they played in securing the grant and encouraging students to participate in the contest.
“I’ve been in Wellington for 15 years and my office is right next to the BMV,” said Karolak. “I wanted to find a way to help this community because they’ve helped me over these years. Whenever a chance comes up to help the schools or these kids, it’s what we want to do.”
Among all drivers, texting and cell phone use behind the wheel leads to 1.6 million crashes per year. One out of every four crashes in the U.S. is caused by texting and driving.
The practice is considered six times more likely to cause a crash than drunk driving.
South Lorain County Ambulance District director Skip Gentry said people ages 18 to 44 are more likely to text and take other risks while driving.
“I have countless stories of people whose last words came in a text just as they got in a crash,” he said. “Just don’t do it and use hands-free operating only. It’s a real freedom when you start driving and a lot of times it can get away from someone. Unfortunately, we continue to see the results of that in this area and all over Lorain County.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.