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NASCAR Drivers Encourage Teens to Stop Texting while Driving

Many young motorists committing DWD – “Driving While Distracted”

Richmond, VA — Today, Nationwide Insurance teamed up with NASCAR drivers Clint Bowyer and Landon Cassill, DRIVE SMART Virginia, the Virginia State Police, Henrico County School officials and the Richmond International Raceway to raise awareness among Virginia teens about DWD – Driving While Distracted.

"To remain safe behind the wheel, whether it is on a race track or on the streets, requires 100 percent focus," said Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 2 BB&T Chevrolet and current points leader in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. "If I allow myself to become distracted during the race it can cost me positions on the track, but driving distracted on the streets and highways can be extremely dangerous not only to the driver but to the other motorists on the road."

To drive home the message that multitasking behind the wheel puts drivers and their fellow motorists at risk, Nationwide hosted an event at Hermitage High School. Students and community members were able to see firsthand the impact text messaging has on their driving abilities while racing in a NASCAR simulator.

“Here in Virginia, we are committed to improving the safety of our roadways, and distracted driving is a challenge that we are addressing. Initiatives like Distracted Driving Awareness Day direct our attention to the need to focus our minds and eyes on the important task of driving," said Ralph Davis, Deputy Secretary of Transportation. "We want to urge all drivers to devote their full attention and energy to helping to improve safety on Virginia's roadways."

Officials, including Davis, Virginia State Police Deputy Director of Field Operations Major George L. Daniels, Jr., Superintendent of Henrico Co. Schools Fred Morton IV and the President of Richmond International Raceway Doug Fritz, encouraged teens in Virginia to drive safely and stop driving while distracted.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says distracted drivers account for nearly four out of five crashes in the U.S. The problem is especially bad for young drivers. In a survey by Nationwide Mutual Insurance of 1,200 drivers, a third of Gen Y-ers admit to always multitasking while driving and 37 percent send text messages while driving.

“Multi-tasking has become such a daily part of our lives that many people don’t think about the risks to themselves and others when it’s done behind the wheel,” said Major George L. Daniels, Virginia State Police Deputy Director of Field Operations. “It only takes a few seconds to change a CD, grab a drink, dial a cell phone, crash your vehicle and change a life forever.”

Distractions that take a driver’s eyes off the road even for just seconds put drivers and their passengers at great risk.

“At Nationwide, we’re as much in the business of preventing accidents as we are in reimbursing people after an accident,” said Mark Berven, Nationwide’s Regional Vice President for Virginia. “Text messaging comes natural to Gen Y-ers. However, multitasking while behind the wheel is quite different from multitasking while sitting at home.”

Nationwide and the National Safety Council developed www.NationwideSmartRide.com, a Website to provide parents and teens free tools and resources to help develop safe drivers and reinforce smart behavior. It is available free to anyone regardless of whether they are a Nationwide customer.

"The increase in cell phone use and text-messaging by young drivers – and adult drivers as well – makes the "don't drive while distracted" message critical for all communities,” said Fred Morton, IV, Superintendent of Henrico County Schools. “I applaud all the organizations involved in today's event for addressing this very contemporary safety issue.”

Nationwide Insurance was at Hermitage High School as part of its new sponsorship of the NASCAR Nationwide Series. In addition to spreading the message of dangers of driving while distracted, the event gave race fans an opportunity to get driver autographs, clock the fastest time in a NASCAR racing simulator, meet local Nationwide agents and win prizes. The grand prize for the sweepstakes at the event was the Nationwide® VIP Experience at the track in Richmond.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series will be at the Richmond International Raceway on Friday, May 2, 2008 for the Lipton Tea 250. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. on ESPN 2.

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