Student wins PennDOT District 2 distracted driving PSA contest

ST. MARYS - Matt Wickett, a junior at St. Marys Area High School, was announced as this year's winner of the state Department of Transportation's (PennDOT) Public Service Announcement (PSA) contest for District 2. District 2 encompasses nine counties, including Elk, and has a land mass the size of the state of New Jersey. PennDOT representatives were on hand at SMAHS Tuesday to present Wickett with a certificate marking his achievement. Marla Fannin, community relations coordinator with PennDOT's District 2, explained a winner is selected in each of PennDOT's 11 local districts. Wickett said he heard about the contest through Ms. Ann Defilippi's media class. "When I heard about the radio PSA, I said, 'I'm going to do this, it's right up my alley,'" Wickett said. The theme of this year's PSA contest was distracted driving. Wickett said he went about creating the PSA through internet research and creative thinking. In composing the piece and staying true to the topic of distracted driving, Wickett said he used sound effects and "ad writing, or commercial writing."Wickett, who works part-time at radio station WKBI in his off-time, had the tools at his disposal in creating the 30-second radio spot. Wickett said he hopes to have a future in radio and plans on attending college for communications. He said that conveying the dangers of distracted driving is of personal importance to him as a teenager because it may help save the lives of his peers. "It's important to me. I don't want to see any teenagers driving distracted-- it can cause a lot of destruction," Wickett said. Fannin said that Wickett's PSA will be distributed to media outlets throughout the district. "We sent this out to all of our media outlets, we go all the way to the New York state line and as far south as about 50 miles outside of Harrisburg," Fannin said. Fannin said the purpose of the PSA is to draw attention to distracted driving and diminish the potential for it."The district that we cover is very large and very rural. The most highly populated area we have is State College. I think the point we were hoping to make in regard to this presentation is that we have the same distracted driving concerns in a rural community that anybody would have, no matter what the population," Fannin said. Dawn Roussey, safety press officer with PennDOT District 2, said distracted driving is responsible for a greater portion of accidents than many realize. "The vast majority of crashes, if you look at the cause of them, it's not because of a bald tire, it's not because of perhaps a slippery roadway-- the most common cause of crashes is driver error. Distracted driving could be one of those," Roussey said.