Lansing-based Auto-Owners Insurance says it’s backing the fight against texting while driving by using a new trend in fashion: thumb bands.

The company has donated thousands of “W82TXT” thumb bands to its local independent agencies in the 26 states in which Auto-Owners Insurance operates. These bands will be given to local high school students during presentations supporting the cause.

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A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute states that texting while driving increases the risk of accident 23.2 times over unimpaired driving. In the moments before an accident, drivers usually spend five seconds looking at their phone — enough time to cover more than the length of a football field at highway speed.

Since this remains a prevalent and completely preventable problem, students are encouraged to participate by wearing their bands in support of the cause.

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“We feel this is part of our corporate responsibility,” said Katie Noirot, senior vice president for marketing and sales. “Our independent agents also take on that responsibility and want to help their communities whenever possible. Hopefully, the next time someone goes to text, they will think twice.”

In addition to the thumb bands, students and young professionals ages 18-24 are encouraged to participate in a nationwide contest by recording a public service announcement for the W82TXT campaign. Details regarding the contest can be found on the Auto-Owners Insurance Facebook page. The winning entrant will receive an iPad and a chance for their video to be featured in the company’s national campaign.

Auto-Owners Insurance employs more than 3,500 associates. The company is comprised of five property and casualty companies and a life insurance company, and writes business in 26 states through local independent agents.

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