Come summer 2018, a new set of Virginia license plates raising awareness for distracted driving will hit the roads.
The idea sprouted from local high school students in a stakeholders meeting following the death of five-month-old Tristan Schulz in August. Schulz and his mother were hit by a distracted driver while in a crosswalk in Lansdowne. Virginia House Delegate Tag Greason (R-32), met with the students and was taken by their idea.
“The next generation of drivers is owning the issue,” Greason said.
While Greason’s instincts were to raise penalties for distracted driving, the students wanted to create an awareness program by designing a distracted driving license plate that could be purchased at the DMV. Greason is no stranger to specialty license plates, Greason, Jay Coakley, a local cancer awareness advocate, and Roya Giordano, mother of Mathias Giordano, helped create the “Cure Childhood Cancer” license plates that can be seen across the Commonwealth.
Greason worked to pass a bill through the Virginia General Assembly to give the DMV the authority to create the plates and on May 16, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed the bill into law while at Riverside High School in Lansdowne.
“When we see those license plates, we’re going to think about two things,” Greason said. “We’re going to think about Tristan and we’re going to think about putting our phones down.”
Virginia DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb said all Commonwealth students will be able to participate in a contest this fall for the design of the license plate. In April, eight winners will compete for the top prize of having their design displayed on the license plate and a cash prize. Virginians will be able to purchase the distracted driving plates July 2018.
“This whole process is going to be about raising awareness for distracted driving, discouraging distracted driving, and most importantly, it’s about saving lives,” Holcomb said.
McAuliffe said in 2016, Virginia saw 13 deaths and 872 injuries caused by distracted driving and his office is dedicated to curbing the problem.
“We’re leaning in to the issues that matter to you,” McAuliffe said.