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Brothers given scholarships for anti-texting, driving advertisement

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Two students from Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus are sitting in a car when the one behind the wheel receives a text.

The passenger yells, “Dude! Watch out! Oh my gosh!”

And then there’s chaos.

The situation was played out in a six-second video on the social media platform Vine. The video’s creators, Abdiel and Abner Garcia of Seymour, each won a $5,000 scholarship.

The brothers were selected as winners in the TXT L8R social media contest sponsored by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Criminal Justice Institute, Department of Labor, Department of Transportation and Indiana State Police.

“All the time you hear about horrible accidents that occur due to texting and driving,” Abner Garcia said. “I felt that making it seem like I crashed would be the easiest way to show the danger.”

The contest is part of an effort to urge drivers — especially young ones — to “Drive Now. TXT L8R.”

Only about 400 tickets have been issued statewide since the ban on texting while driving went into effect three years ago, and most of them have been issued to drivers younger than age 30.

So the Indiana agencies targeted that demographic by launching the contest, which encouraged high school and college students to post to Twitter, Vine and Instagram using the hashtag, “#TXTL8RIN.”

“Instead of making a tragic mistake behind the wheel, Hoosier high school and college students put their smartphone to good use educating others,” said Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, who voted for the 2011 texting ban.

A total of 179 students made 7,000 posts to Twitter and 47 on Instagram or Vine.

Abdiel and Abner Garcia won because their post received the most “likes” on Vine — 4,205 users liked the video, 1,536 reposted it and 268 users left comments.

Abner Garcia already had close to 40,000 followers on the platform when the contest started, but he said most users are looking for comedy videos.

Many of the comments were pointing out that the car was not moving — entries made while the car is in motion were automatically disqualified from the contest — and they called the video “fake.”

“It just made me think about what our generation is coming to when people are more concerned about the fact that the Vine was taken while not driving than actually focusing on the message,” Garcia said.

Three students from Jennings County High School — Skyler Blanton, Madi Rogers and Allie Bertram — also each won $5,000 scholarships for the most creative entry on Instagram.

Their 15-second video shows 12 students holding and reading a sign that says, “I promise.”

The screen fades out and text appears: “Make a promise worth keeping. Promise to be a safe driver.”

Blanton said she realizes many people text and drive, so she entered the contest to raise awareness.

“Driving is a privilege, so don’t take it for granted,” she said. “So many precious lives are at risk every day on the roads.”

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