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Nationwide, Harvick and Gale Encourage Teens to Stop DWD

Many Young Motorists Committing DWD – “Driving While Distracted”

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Today, Nationwide Insurance teamed up with NASCAR drivers Kevin Harvick and Cale Gale to raise awareness among North Carolina teens about DWD – Driving While Distracted.

“Whenever I am behind the wheel, no matter if it’s in my race car, go-kart or my personal car, I am always focused on the task at hand,” said two-time Nationwide Series champion Kevin Harvick. “If I take the chance of losing focus while I am on or off the track, it could not only injure me, but the people around me as well.”

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

“Every time I get in a car, whether it’s on the track or the highway, I am always aware of my surroundings and am focused on the road,” said Rookie of the Year Contender Cale Gale, driver of the No. 33 RoadLoans.com Chevrolet. “As a young driver and a rookie in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, I know how easy it is to get distracted, but I know in order to finish a race and to safely get from place to place, I must always stay focused and alert to keep myself and others out of trouble. Between Nationwide Insurance and my sponsor RoadLoans.com, hopefully we can teach other young drivers the importance of driving safe on the highways.”

New Nationwide Insurance survey underscores DWD problem
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 released this week by Nationwide Mutual Insurance of 1,500 drivers, nearly 40 percent of the teenagers and young adults surveyed admitted they send and receive text messages while driving - the same percentage of those questioned who said they have been hit or almost hit by another car whose driver was talking on a cell phone.

“Clearly, distracted driving has taken over our roadways, and our survey shows that no one is immune -- no matter how safe they think they are,” said Bill Windsor, Associate Vice President of Safety for Nationwide.

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 Lee Morton, Nationwide’s Regional Vice President for North Carolina. “Text messaging comes natural to Gen Y-ers. However, multitasking while behind the wheel is quite different from multitasking while sitting at home.”

“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 Phillip Cauthen, Principal of Vance High School. “I applaud Nationwide and NASCAR for drawing attention to this very important safety issue.”

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.

Nationwide Insurance was at Vance 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 Lowe’s Motor Speedway, which includes behind-the-scenes tours.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series will be at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 24, 2008, for the Carquest Auto Parts 300. Coverage beings at 7 p.m. on ESPN 2.

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