AT&THARRISBURG, Pa., September 23, 2015 – The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association (PNA), the PNA Foundation, Pennsylvania’s newspapers, and AT&T are joining together again to host an “It Can Wait” editorial contest to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.

Distracted driving is involved in more than 200,000 vehicle crashes each year, often involving injuries and death. Despite knowing the risks, seven in ten drivers engage in smart phone activity while driving, and four in ten teens admit to social networking while driving.

However, there is an opportunity to change behavior: 78 percent of teen drivers say they are likely not to text and drive if friends tell them it is wrong, and 82 percent of drivers who have taken action to stop texting while driving feel good about themselves.

“Across Pennsylvania and the country, distracted driving is an epidemic, which is why we are again hosting an “It Can Wait” editorial contest with AT&T and our member news media organizations,” said Teri Henning, President of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association. “We had strong participation in our 2015 contest and are hoping that the 2016 campaign can involve more students and schools in this important effort.”

J. Michael Schweder, president, AT&T Mid Atlantic, said the contest is one way to spread the word about the dangers of distracted driving.

“Behind the wheel, everything can change in the blink of an eye. A post, a selfie, a text, a scroll, an email—one look is all it takes,” Schweder said. “This contest is a great way to remind all drivers, especially younger ones, to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phones. We’re grateful to the NewsMedia Association for teaming up with us to spread this important message throughout the Commonwealth: it can wait. I look forward to reading the students’ essays.”

The contest, which begins September 28, is open to all Pennsylvania high school students and offers a $500 prize for the 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?”

Local news media companies are encouraged to host local contests and determine which entries are submitted to the PNA in consideration for the statewide prize. Entries may also be submitted to by Feb. 5, 2016. The PNA will announce the winning statewide entry by February 26, 2016, and the award will be presented at a luncheon on April 6, at the Hershey Lodge.

“It Can Wait” is a national movement urging drivers to visit a website where they can pledge to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phones, and share their pledges via Twitter (#ItCanWait) and Facebook. Since its launch in 2010, the campaign has helped increase awareness of the dangers of texting while driving to about 90 percent for all audiences surveyed and inspired more than 7.2 million pledges not to text and drive.

Local news media plays an important role in educating communities about important public safety issues. By encouraging participation in the It Can Wait editorial contest, the PNA and its members can do a great public service and help to make our roadways safer for Pennsylvanians.

The PNA, founded in 1925, is the nonprofit trade association for print and digital news media in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Its mission is to advance the business interests of Pennsylvania news media organizations and to promote a free and independent press. PNA has more than 300 newspaper and media-related members, including daily, weekly, and college newspapers and online publications.