September 20, 2018

Kiefer Foundation Awards $50,000 in Scholarships to Winners of Hands Free Driving Contest

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.

Kerr Russell supports the Kiefer Foundation, and Kerr Russell member Mark Knoth serves on the Board of Directors.

“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 namesake, 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.”

Each of the five winning videos was shown at the press conference:

Grand Prize Winner ($25,000 Scholarship)
Ariel, Zoey, and Eli Engelbert
Keep Your Eyes on the Road:

1st Prize Winner ($10,000 Scholarship)
Erin Winters
My Future is Waiting for Me:

2nd Prize Winner ($5,000 Scholarship)
Mary Kelly Fitzpatrick
What’s Your Reason?

2nd Prize Winner ($5,000 Scholarship)
Andrew McBride
Do Not Disturb Mode Can Save Lives:

2nd Prize Winner ($5,000 Scholarship)
Alyssa Tomczak and James Harding
Stop, Drop, and Drive:

After the videos were shown, Kiefer urged those in attendance to change their own behavior.

“Take the pledge to put the phone down in the car,” he said. “As Chief Craig said, it’s more than just phones, because there’s just all kinds of distraction in the car, but that would be a good start. Put the phones down, go hands free. Also turn on the Do Not Disturb and Safe Driving mode, educate your family members, make sure you get the commitment from everyone you know to do the same.”

About The Kiefer Foundation: “On September 19, 2016, Mitchel Kiefer was tragically killed in an auto accident caused by a distracted driver. Founded to honor Mitchel’s legacy, the mission of the Kiefer Foundation is to end distracted driving and all associated traffic deaths and injuries. Efforts from our three pillars will help support our mission.”