Four Michigan Teens Recognized for Their Efforts to Stop Distracted Driving

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Here are the winners of the 2017 Kelsey’s Law Scholarship: Four Michigan high school students who submitted the best persuasive video, Tweet and image to help stop teen car accidents

Winners of the 2017 Kelsey’s Law Scholarship: Stop Distracted Driving Contest

Top: Ellie Rocheleau (from left); Kelley Sweitzer; Steven Gursten; Kevin Chen. Bottom: Bonnie Raffaele (from left), Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, Nicole Sherman, Brandon Hewitt of Mich. Auto Law

Our hope is to get these powerful distracted driving messages shared among as many high school students as possible to impact their decisions and stop this potentially deadly driving behavior.

Three University of Michigan first-year students and a Zeeland high school senior earned college scholarship awards for their winning entries in Michigan Auto Law’s second annual “Kelsey’s Law Scholarship: Stop Distracted Driving Contest.”

The contest, sponsored by the Farmington Hills-based law firm Michigan Auto Law, calls for current high school students and recently graduated high school students from all over the state to submit compelling messages — in video, Tweet or graphic form — for the chance to win $5,000 worth of college scholarships.

“Our hope is to get these powerful distracted driving messages shared among as many high school students as possible to impact their decisions and stop this potentially deadly driving behavior,” said Steven Gursten, auto and truck accident attorney and Michigan Auto Law founder.

The Kelsey’s Law Scholarship is in honor of Kelsey Raffaele, a Sault Ste. Marie 17-year-old who inspired Michigan’s teen driving law after she was tragically killed in a 2010 car accident using her cell phone.

Bonnie Raffaele, Kelsey’s mother, pushed Michigan legislators to pass Michigan’s first teen cell phone ban (Public Act 592 of 2012). The law prohibits cell phone use by teen drivers with a Level 2 graduated license, which is when 16-year-olds can drive a motor vehicle without an adult in the state of Michigan. A teen driver who violates this law by using a cell phone would receive a civil infraction.

“Kelsey had a heart bigger than the universe and she would have been thrilled that this contest is in her honor,” Bonnie Raffaele said. “If we can save just one life out of this tragedy, then our job has been done.”

The Kelsey’s Law Scholarship winners announcement coincides with the beginning of National Teen Driver Safety Week ( The annual campaign, sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is designed to encourage all parents to talk to their teen drivers about the rules of the road.

The four winning Kelsey’s Law Scholarship submissions are:

Best Overall: Kelley Sweitzer — Kelley graduated from East Lansing High School this past June and is currently attending the University of Michigan. She created a powerful video message about how choosing to drive distracted “can not only affect your life, but the lives of everyone around you. … No text is worth the risk.”

Best Video: Ellie Rocheleau — Ellie graduated from Troy Athens High School this past June and currently attends college at the University of Michigan. In Ellie’s video, a teen driver is about to reply to a text … until she has an encounter with her conscience. Ellie’s message: “Save yourself from yourself.”

Best Graphic: Nicole Sherman — Nicole, a senior at Zeeland West High School, created a graphic that depicts how texting and driving can turn a scene of eight close-knit friends into only seven. In it, seven teens have their arms linked at the shoulders, with the message below reading:

“Yesterday there was eight of them… Don’t let texting and driving cost you a friend #xMyText”

Best Tweet: Kevin Chen — Kevin graduated from Canton High School this past June and is currently attending the University of Michigan. He needed just 106 characters (out of Twitter’s 140-character maximum) to explain what kind of danger can happen in 5-second increments:

“Would you drive with your eyes closed? With every text being a 5 second blindfold... IT CAN WAIT. #xMyText”

Entries were judged and critiqued on the following factors:

  • Ability to persuade others, especially teen drivers, to stop texting while driving.
  • Ability to grab the attention of friends, peers and family.
  • A clear and understandable message.
  • Demonstration of personal creativity and ingenuity.

“These students created the most influential and emotional messages that will truly resonate with teen drivers — and we’re honored to further the cause of helping prevent teen crashes in the name of Kelsey,” Gursten said. “Bonnie has been tremendously courageous and we want to honor her crusade by also making it ours.”

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. The Michigan Department of State Police reports that in 2016, 11.1 percent of drivers involved in Michigan crashes were between ages 16 and 20 (59,865 drivers), while teens made up 8.9 percent (139 drivers) who were in fatal crashes.

Further, reports that in 2016, 1,893 motor vehicle drivers in Michigan were reported to be using cell phones at the time of a crash — and 18.3 percent were 20 years old or younger.

“As an auto accident attorney, I’m seeing more and more of these distracted driving car accident cases, especially involving new teenage drivers. Myself and the attorneys at my law firm want to do everything we can to prevent them,” he added.

To view more details about each winner and their submissions, please visit

The 2018 Kelsey’s Law Scholarship — Stop Distracted Driving Contest is now open for submissions. The deadline to apply is August 31, 2018. To apply, click here:

About Michigan Auto Law: Michigan Auto Law is the largest auto accident law firm in Michigan, with 17 lawyers exclusively litigating serious automobile accident injury cases and No-Fault insurance litigation throughout the state. The law firm has received a top-reported jury verdict or injury settlement for a car or truck accident for the past 17 consecutive years, according to published year-end compilations by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. Michigan Auto Law has law offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Sterling Heights, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor. For more information, visit or call (800) 777-0028.

About Steven M. Gursten: Steven Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top attorneys litigating serious auto accident injury and wrongful death cases. Steve is an active leader in many organizations, including President of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association, Chair-elect of the American Association for Justice Traumatic Brain Injury Group, and a Past Chair of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Lawyer Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Lawyer of the Year. Steve is also listed in Best Lawyers in America and is one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Michigan by Super Lawyers. He frequently lectures at legal seminars throughout the country on topics such as trial advocacy, truck accident litigation, the Michigan No-Fault law, traumatic brain injury and auto accidents.

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Douglas Levy
Michigan Auto Law
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