KHS student wins anti-text-and-drive journalism competition

By on July 31, 2011

Photo: Kaneland Sophomore Brin Wilk shows a copy of last November’s Kaneland Krier that included her award-winning essay about texting while driving. Photo by John DiDonna

by Keith Beebe
KANELAND—Kaneland High School student and Sugar Grove resident Brin Wilk was in the midst of writing an article about the dangers of distracted driving when her journalism teacher, Cheryl Borrowdale, heard about the story and suggested Wilk submit the written piece to the third annual Keep The Drive High School Journalism Awards, sponsored by the Allstate Foundation.

Borrowdale’s advice turned out to be pretty good, as Wilk was chosen the winner of the contest, beating out nearly 300 other entrants and earning a prize sum of $750.

“I have had good friends in accidents caused by distracted driving,” Wilk said. “I’ve seen firsthand how it affects the lives of people and the difficulties that follow an accident caused by distracted driving. I felt it was necessary and important for people to understand the danger of distracted driving.”

According to the Allstate Foundation’s website, auto accidents are the No.1 contributor to teen deaths in the United States, with an average of over 4,000 driving-related fatalities each year. Allstate’s Keep The Drive High School Journalism Awards is meant to inspire high school students to inform and educate others about distracted driving-a practice that includes texting, excessive socializing or making phone calls while driving.

Entrants in the competition had the option to either write an article that would be published in their school newspaper, or create a live news piece for students to view.

Wilk said her article explored the emotional and physical trauma that distracted driving can bring to people’s lives.

“When I finished the article, I wasn’t sure whether I had a winning piece on my hands,” she said. “I didn’t know what kind of competition the story would be up against, but I felt confident and proud of the finished copy.”

According to Meghan O’Kelly, Midwest region corporate relations for Allstate, 80 percent of crashes involve a form of driver inattention within three seconds of the actual collision, and texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds.

“At 55 miles per hour, that’s traveling the length of a football field completely blind,” she said. “Allstate realizes this is an epidemic, and it’s a behavior that we can create awareness about and help teachers and parents educate teens and bring more awareness to the issue.”

O’Kelly had high praise for Wilk’s article, and also said she hopes to have even more students enter the competition next year.

“I think the article sends an extremely powerful message about how this type of behavior can affect the lives of those around us,” she said. “By telling the personal stories of her parents, I think (Brin) really brought this issue to life and, hopefully, changed behaviors in her school for the better.”

Wilk appears to be a worthy ambassador for Allstate’s stance against distracted driving.

“It only takes one moment—whether you are looking at your phone, changing the radio station or socializing with friends—with your eyes off the road or your mind elsewhere for an accident to take place that could take not only your life, but someone else’s,” she said. “It’s smart to break the habit of distracted driving practices now, as opposed to when it’s too late.”