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Rahal and Champ Car announce program UPDATE See a video of Rahal talking about this program on our Home Page.

08/15/07 Graham Rahal, speaking on behalf of the Champ Car World Series and his fellow drivers, announced today the launch of a global cause campaign called “Hands on the Wheel.” The new umbrella program will utilize Champ Car’s professional race car drivers, teams, events, partners and sponsors to encourage safe driving, with particular focus on the growing threat caused by people texting while driving.

The official announcement was made in Detroit by 18-year-old Graham Rahal, who drives the No. 2 Medi | Zone race car for the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team. Rahal pledged his support to the program and appeared in a Public Service Announcement unveiled at the announcement. 

Rahal was joined by former Champ Car driver Lyn St. James as well Michigan State Police F/Lt. Monica Yesh and other officers of the Michigan State Police at their Metro South Post headquarters in Taylor, Mich.  Rahal also was in the Detroit area to attend the International Motorsports Hall of Fame banquet later that evening.

Studies show that 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near crashes involve some form of driver distraction. Two recent studies estimate that a third of young drivers text message from behind the wheel, while another study released last year found that typing on a cell phone or handheld device triples the risk of a crash.

“Unsafe driving is an on-going problem that requires attention,” Rahal said when announcing the cause campaign initiative. “I have signed the pledge, and all other drivers in the Champ Car World Series and Champ Car Atlantic Championships did so as well this past weekend at Road America. I’m also encouraging my family and friends to do the same. 

“It takes great concentration and precision to handle a 750-horsepower Champ Car, but it takes that same level of concentration and precision to handle your every day car so we can keep our streets and highways as safe as possible.  I hope that everyone follows our lead and takes the pledge to not be a distracted driver.”

Added Champ Car World Series President and CEO Steve Johnson said: “We feel an immediate need exists for a concentrated, pro-active outreach initiative to bring the issue of distracted driving more directly to the people, especially young adults.  Who better to deliver this message than the diverse group of Champ Car World Series and Atlantic Championship drivers including Graham, Sebastien Bourdais, Will Power, Katherine Legge, Rafael Matos, Frankie Muniz and others? Our plan is to use the global reach of our Series and stars to help make a difference.”

The series will build an educational platform to deliver the message about the dangers that exist when texting, among other unsafe driving practices. The initial rollout of the program will include a PSA that will run during the Champ Car broadcasts and be distributed to cable providers nationally. A website, www.HandsOnTheWheel.org, will encourage people to make a Hands on the Wheel pledge and learn more about safe driving. Initial supporters will receive a keychain that will carry the Hands on the Wheel logo.  Collateral material will be produced for display and distribution at Champ Car World Series events. 

The campaign will continue to grow by working in conjunction with national and international government entities, law enforcement, sponsors and other entities to promote safe driving.

Upcoming initiatives include developing and executing high school and college programs whereby student organizations plan a Hands on the Wheel day and get people to sign up and spread the word about the initiative. A Hands on the Wheel Day kit will be developed and available for download at the website for students to conduct their own day.  Drivers from the Champ Car World Series and Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championships Powered by Mazda will make visits to select schools for symposiums and sign autographs to promote the day.  The two series also will encourage individual race promoters to work directly with high schools and colleges in their area to promote this initiative. 

Recently, three-time and defending Series Champion Sebastien Bourdais filmed several :30-second “Drive Like a Pro” PSAs for his hometown of Tampa, Fla., to encourage drivers to, among other messages, use onramps properly before entering the flow of traffic.  In addition, former Champ Car Champion Paul Tracy of Canada filmed a PSA for the Ontario Safety League to declare street racing socially unacceptable and “uncool.”  In the spot provided to television networks across Canada, Tracy declares, “If you want to prove yourself behind the wheel, save it for the race track.”

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