Essay Contest for California High School Juniors, Seniors on 'Teen Cell Phone Ban'

The rules of the road have changed for teenagers who want to text message or talk on their cell phone while driving, and high school juniors and seniors can sound off about it.

The LegiSchool Project, a civic education collaborative between Sacramento State's Center for California Studies and the California Legislature, is seeking entries for its annual essay contest. This year's topic is "Rules of the Road: The Teen Cell Phone Ban." The contest is open to 11th and 12th grade students in California high schools.

Ten essayists will be selected to win round-trip travel to Sacramento to participate in LegiSchool's 13th annual Legislative Summit on April 2, 2009. At the Summit, winners will participate in a student-run press conference at the State Capitol with members of the Capitol Press Corps and legislative staff and a complimentary lunch at the Capitol.

The essay topic was prompted by Senate Bill 33, signed into law by the governor, which banned drivers under the age of 18 from all cell phone use - both talking and text messaging - while driving. Supporters of the measure relied on key studies to argue their case for the ban, such as the Ford Motor Company study which indicated teens are four times more likely to be distracted by cell phone use than adults. However, some studies show that it is not the holding of the phone that is distracting, but the conversation itself.

Students should address the following questions in their essays: Do you agree or disagree with this law? Why or why not? How has this law had an impact on you and your driving skills? Has this law been effective in creating better teen drivers?

Essays must be 750 words or less, typed and double spaced and include a cover sheet with the student's name, home address, phone number and e-mail, the name and address of the student's school and the name of the teacher who announced the contest. Entries must be postmarked by January 23, 2009 and submitted to: California State University, Sacramento; Center for California Studies, LegiSchool Project; 6000 J Street; Sacramento, CA 95819-6081.

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