Applications open for distracted driving awareness scholarship

Kelsey Raffaele was killed in a cell phone-related crash in 2010.Photo supplied by Michigan Auto Law

Michigan Auto Law announces applications are now being accepted for the 2024 Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship. Michigan Auto Law created the scholarship in honor of Kelsey Raffaele, of Sault Ste. Marie, who tragically lost her life in a cell phone-related automobile crash in 2010 at the age of 17. Michigan Auto Law hopes to inspire change and raise awareness, by encouraging Michigan high school juniors and seniors to submit a persuasive message about the dangers of distracted driving for young drivers. Applications for the 2024 scholarship are being accepted now through March 31, 2024, online.

Through the support of Bonnie Raffaele, Kelsey’s mother, the Kelsey’s Law was passed in Michigan in 2013, prohibiting cell phone use by new drivers. The law states if you use a mobile phone while driving, you may be ticketed by a law enforcement officer. This also prohibits initiating a call, answering a call, or listening to or engaging in verbal communications through a cell phone. Bonnie Raffaele also supports Michigan Auto Law through the Kelsey’s Law Scholarship by providing guidance and helping select the annual winners to receive the award.

“As lawyers, there is nothing so devastating for families we’ve helped than the death of a son or daughter, and nothing so tragic as a completely preventable death due to distracted driving so we started this scholarship and partnered with Bonnie Raffaele to help try to save lives,” said Steven Gursten, Attorney and Owner of Michigan Auto Law.

Michigan Auto Law gives annual scholarships to students who show exemplary leaderships skills and has been awarding the Kelsey’s Law Scholarship since 2016 to young drivers who use their platform to raise awareness not only for young drivers, but to drivers all over Michigan. Driving distractions are more than just using a cell phone and/or texting, but also eating and drinking, reading, using navigations systems, and even changing radio stations.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, nearly 23 per cent of distracted driving-related crashes in Michigan in 2021 involved drivers aged 15 to 20. Furthermore, 8 per cent of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes in the U.S. in 2020 were teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19. These statistics emphasize the urgent need to address distracted driving among young drivers.

To be considered as a recipient of the 2024 Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship, Michigan students are invited to submit compelling videos, graphics, or tweets that resonate with their peers and influence safe driving behavior. Entries will be judged based on their ability to persuade others to stop texting while driving, grab the attention of friends and family, deliver a clear and understandable message, and showcase personal creativity and ingenuity. The scholarship offers various award amounts, including $2,000 for the overall best submission, $1,500 for the best video submission, $1,000 for the best graphic submission, and $500 for the best tweet submission. Each student is limited to one type of submission. 

The Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship is open to 11th and 12th grade students attending any public or private Michigan high school. The scholarship funds will be applied towards tuition at any university, college, or technical school in the United States. Applicants must be Michigan residents with a valid driver’s license. Finalists will be required to provide proof of enrollment, and if under 18 years old by April 15, 2024, a parental consent form must be signed.

Over the last several years, Michigan Auto Law has awarded the Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship to students from such schools as; Bryon Center High School (Byron Center), Forest Hills Northern High School (Grand Rapids), North Farmington High School (Farmington Hills), Wayland Union High School (Wayland), Caledonia High School (Caledonia), Troy Athens High School (Troy) and Eisenhower High School (Macomb). These students have gone on to continue their education at colleges and universities such as Adrian, Schoolcraft, Columbia College in Chicago, Michigan State University, and Lansing Community College, just to name a few.

The deadline to apply online is March 31, 2024. Winners will be announced in April 2024, coinciding with National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. 

For more information and to apply, please click here.

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