Nationwide Insurance, NASCAR Drivers Encourage Teens to Stop Texting While Driving : Many Young Motorists Committing DWD – "Driving While Distracted"

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Today, Nationwide Insurance teamed up with NASCAR drivers Jason Leffler and Kevin Hamlin to raise awareness among high school students about DWD – Driving While Distracted.

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Text messaging comes natural to Gen Y-ers. However, multitasking while behind the wheel is quite different from multitasking while sitting at home. Driving while distracted is a growing problem and we need to help raise awareness about this dangerous issue.

"As NASCAR drivers, we do everything we can to ensure we are safe inside our racecars," said Jason Leffler, driver of the No. 38 Great Clips Toyota. "It's essential that safety goes beyond the race track to the streets and highways. With the increased use of cell phones, it's never been more important for drivers to avoid distractions while behind the wheel."

To drive home the message that multitasking behind the wheel puts drivers and their fellow motorists as risk, Nationwide hosted an event at Millington Central 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.

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 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.

"Driving around the speedway or down the street is fun. Whether it's on or off the track, it's something I love to do any chance I get," said Kevin Hamlin, driver of the No. 40 Fastenal Dodge. "Driving is also a privilege that a race car driver or any licensed driver should never take for granted. That is why it is always important to stay focused and remember in order to keep the roadways and raceways safe, don't try to multitask behind the wheel. Just drive."

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 Orysia Meyers, Nationwide's Regional Vice President for Tennessee. "Text messaging comes natural to Gen Y-ers. However, multitasking while behind the wheel is quite different from multitasking while sitting at home. Driving while distracted is a growing problem and we need to help raise awareness about this dangerous issue."

Nationwide and the National Safety Council developed http://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 also recently announced an exclusive partnership with Aegis Mobility to offer first of its kind cell phone technology that tackles the growing problem of distracted driving by empowering consumers to manage the distraction of cell phones or text messaging devices while a vehicle is in motion.

Aegis Mobility's DriveAssist™ automatically detects the onset of driving and enables parents and corporations to stay in touch with their teens or employees while minimizing cell phone use when driving. Nationwide plans to offer an auto insurance discount for policyholders who sign up to use DriveAssist™.

"We're always looking for ways we can bring the messages of safety and responsibility to the students of MCHS," said Ted Horrell, principal at Millington Central High School. "This event presented a good, fun opportunity for us to emphasize those points."

Today's event is part of Nationwide Insurance's sponsorship of the NASCAR Nationwide Series. In addition to spreading the message of dangers of driving while distracted, the event gave teens an opportunity to get driver autographs, clock the fastest time in a NASCAR racing simulator and win prizes. The grand prize at the event was tickets to this weekend's race at Memphis Motorsports Park.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series will be at the Memphis Motorsports Park on Saturday, October 25, 2008 for the Kroger On Track For The Cure 250 presented by the Southern Dodge Dealers. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. on ESPN Classic.

Nationwide, based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the world, with more than $161 billion in assets. Nationwide ranks #108 on the Fortune 500 list. The company provides a full range of insurance and financial services, including auto, motorcycle, boat, homeowners, life, farm, commercial insurance, administrative services, annuities, mortgages, mutual funds, pensions, long-term savings plans and health and productivity services. For more information, visit http://www.nationwide.com.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series logo and word mark are used under license by the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc., and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. NASCAR® and the NASCAR logo are registered trademarks of the National Association for Stock Auto Racing, Inc. Nationwide SmartRide is a service mark, and Nationwide, On Your Side and the Nationwide Frame mark are federally registered service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.

Aegis Mobility and DriveAssist are trademarks of Aegis Mobility Inc.

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