Fifteen-year-old Andrew Murray became the youngest driver in the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) on October 15, when he competed in the association’s K&N Pro Series West race at All American Speedway in Roseville, California. And he’s using his fame (according to Wikipedia, only professional football has more TV viewers than NASCAR races) to speak out against texting while driving.
Murray, who comes from Temecula, California, isn’t even old enough to drive a car on his own on regular roads. As Jonathan Lloyd and Colleen Williams report for NBC Los Angeles, Murray said the following when asked whether he was excited about getting his learner’s permit: “I get to drive to school, but I still have to have my mom in the passenger’s seat.” He’s six months away from getting his provisional driver’s permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood writes on his blog, Fast Lane:
But not having a driver’s license hasn’t stopped him from advocating for a cause he believes in — ending distracted driving. As a spokesman for Mercury Insurance’s ‘Don’t Text and Drive Pledge’ campaign, he visits high schools across the region at least once a week, encouraging young drivers to put down their phones while driving.
Andrew says he wants the students to understand that ‘texting while driving is very, very dangerous.’ He says, ‘when I talk to (my friends) about all the stats, it impacts them.’
Murray, who started out in go-kart racing, told NBC Los Angeles, “Being a race car driver, I know what little distraction you can have while driving and get into an accident because of it.” Although writing, sending, or reading cell phone text messages while driving is illegal in California, nearly 86% of teens admit to texting while driving, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Fast Lane says that Murray is one of many teens across the U.S. who are working to end distracted driving. On Monday, they attended the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) Summit in Washington, D.C., where they learned about the most recent distracted driving research and ways to use a wide variety of communication tools to convince drivers to ignore their phones while at the wheel. The summit armed them with information they will use in their communities to get the message out.
This won’t be an easy task, but I’m confident that these young leaders will be prepared for the sustained effort that ending distracted driving requires, and I’m excited to see the creative ideas that they come up with.
With the help of young people like Andrew, Zach [Veach of the Andretti Autosport team], and the members of NOYS working with us to put an end to distracted driving, I am confident that we can save countless lives by reminding drivers that no text or call is worth the risk.
You can sign the Mercury Insurance Don’t Text and Drive Pledge here: http://www.mercuryinsurance.com/texting/.
Here is a video of Andrew Murray talking about the dangers of distracted driving:
Image by AndrewMurrayRacing.com, used under Fair Use: Reporting.