The Missouri Press Association (MPA) teamed with AT&T in a program to bring more awareness to the dangers of texting while driving.

Two Missouri students whose essays were judged to be the best on the subject received cash awards. First place was good for a $1,000 prize and second brought the student $500. Perhaps the most important aspect of the program is that it did direct attention to the dangers of texting while driving.

Each day in the U.S, more than nine people are killed and more than 1,153 are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver, John Sondag of AT&T said. Drivers who text are much more likely to be in an accident.

Despite knowing the risks of texting while driving, 43 percent of teens admit to texting while driving. Sondag said 90 percent of teen drivers say they would stop if a friend in the car asked them, and 78 percent say they are likely not to text and drive if friends tell them it is wrong. Drivers are encouraged to take the pledge to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phones at ItCanWait.com.

Most of the texting while driving messages are not necessary. Teens can wait until the car stops to send their messages and it will make no difference. Yes, there could be emergencies when a text is necessary, but those instances are rare.

Telling a teen driver not to text while driving is positive peer pressure. Teens should apply this peer pressure. Encourage them to take the pledge.