The Kiefer Foundation announced the winners of its Hands Free Driving Contest, Wednesday, Sept. 19 in a press conference at Detroit Police Headquarters, awarding $50,000 worth of scholarships to five winners. The Grand Prize video was created by siblings Ariel, Zoey, and Eli Engelbert of Ann Arbor, Mich. The trio will receive a $25,000 scholarship.
“One of the things that I’m looking to do is as we move forward with our response to traffic issues here in the City of Detroit, we’re going to have a keen eye on distracted driving,” said Detroit Police Chief James Craig. “I want every Detroit police officer (and the community) to know this is something that I’m passionate (about, and) that it needs to end, and it needs to end now. We know (if we are) taking a strong enforcement posture, we will save lives.”
The announcement comes two years to the day after the foundation’s nameake, Mitchel Kiefer, 18, was killed in a car crash. Mitchel was on his way back to Michigan State University when he was rear ended by a distracted driver and forced across the median into oncoming traffic.
“The worst day of our lives. The worst day of any father’s life,” said foundation Chairman Steve Kiefer. “I recall a frantic phone call from my young daughter, Julianna, who was with (Mitchel’s mom) Paula, saying, ‘Dad, something terrible’s happened, Mitchel’s been in an accident, you need to come home.
“I was confused. I tried to calm her down and say, ‘Jules, if it’s a serious accident you just need to tell me where he is; which hospital do I need to go to?’ And she kept saying, ‘No, no, they want you to come home. Come home.’ And I just thought, ‘This can’t be.’ Then to come to the house and have the police officer in the driveway. It sat there all day waiting for us to be home to tell us the horrific news that Mitchell was killed.”
The Kiefer Foundation established the Hands Free Driving Contest as a way to motivate young people to come up with inspiring messages to end distracted driving. The contest spanned June 21 until Sept. 3 during the “100 Deadliest Days” between Memorial Day and Labor Day when teen car crashes increase significantly.
“We had a very difficult time picking these five, we had so many outstanding, amazing videos submitted and quite a debate to get to these top five,” said Kiefer. “(The winning video), we all liked that one.
“We thought it was very creative, we thought it was very catchy, but also the statistics show that if we get to young people — elementary age children and middle school children before they’re driving — if we get them to understand this, sometimes not only will we affect them for their lifetime, they become the biggest advocates. They call out their parents so these things don’t happen in the car with their parents. And that was part of the reason that we selected this song.”
The following videos are the five winners: