Waterford law firm offers scholarship contest for distracted driving essays

 Waterford — Attorneys at Polito & Associates are turning to young people for ideas on how to keep people safe on the roadways.

The personal injury law firm will award a $2,500 scholarship to a high school or college student who responds to the following statement/question in a 600-word essay: "Distracted driving is dangerous, claiming 3,477 lives in 2015 alone. How can technology be used to prevent and/or reduce accidents caused by distracted driving?"

The firm has represented victims of such crashes, including the survivors of Lynn and Bill Tyler. The Tylers, of Preston, were killed on June 21, 2013, when a sober but distracted driver who was reaching for his cellphone slammed his car head-on into their car on Route 2 in Preston.

"When we're at court interviewing prospective jurors, across the board there's real concern and actual outrage about the amount of texting and distracted driving virtually everyone sees on a daily basis," attorney Humbert J. Polito Jr. said.

The firm's attorneys have spoken to students at The Williams School in New London and a Westbrook school recently about distracted driving, according to Polito.

He recalled speaking to one young man who remembered his father driving while looking at his laptop computer, which was open on the passenger's seat.

"The kids get it," Polito said. "They all actually have a lot of good ideas about things they already do to reduce the frequency of texting or phone calls while driving."

Cars now have remarkable safety features to reduce distracted driving, but young people may come up with even better solutions, Polito said.

The essay contest is open to students who can show they are enrolled for the Spring 2018 semester in a high school, university, college or law school in the United States. Submissions are due by 9 a.m. on Feb. 28, and the winner will be selected by March 15, 2018. Submissions should be sent as .doc or .docx attachments to politolawscholarship@gmail.com along with the writer's name, phone number, parental contacts for those under 18, the name of the school or college the student is attending, current or prospective course of study and contact information.

Members of the firm's scholarship committee will judge the essays on originality, creativity and proper use of citations. The scholarship will be awarded directly to the winner's institution of choice.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing what they come up with," Polito said.

The firm has reached out to high schools and colleges both locally and throughout the country, and already has received 62 submissions. They expect significantly more in the coming weeks.

The firm hopes its efforts will help convince drivers to remain focused on the road and to keep their phones and other devices silent and tucked away.

"If we're honest, we can all do better," Polito said.

k.florin@theday.com

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