In June, Amanda Peacock will join 29 others from around the state to compete in the Miss New Jersey contest. Her motivation? The pageant has changed over the years, says Peacock, now competing for the 4th time, and in her 10th year of involvement with the Miss America organization. Pageantry is no longer a question of just looking good but of doing good. These days contestants each have a cause that they advocate for, and Amanda’s is distracted driving. “At the heart of it, it’s a service organization,” Peacock said, “That’s why I want to be Miss New Jersey.”
“People think it’s just about putting on a shiny crown and the sash but the job of Miss New Jersey is a very selfless one,” Peacock said.
Peacock chose distracted driving as her social impact topic at age 13, before she could even drive, after a distracted driver in a town neighboring her home of Williamstown killed a pregnant woman and her unborn son. “For something to happen, that close to home, was really alarming,” Peacock said, “ I knew that it was a growing epidemic and taking countless innocent lives and I thought, okay, I might not be able to drive, I might be young, but I know that I can make a difference in some way.”
At age 14, Peacock started her work on distracted driving by partnering with the Toni and RJ Foundation, started by the family of the woman who was killed in her neighboring town. She began going to events with them, then began on to giving her own presentations as well as part of her volunteering.
Distracted driving includes all types of driving where physical or cognitive function is impaired, but Peacock focuses her advocacy mostly on distracted driving with phones. When explaining to her audiences how to speak up, Peacock draws on her own personal experience.
“I have been in the car where my driver has been using their phone and I’ve even been on a school bus where my bus driver was using their phone while driving.” Peacock said
“Being the person to speak up against a distracted driver takes courage. It may be scary to speak up, but that could potentially save my life and others who are on the road.”
Peacock explained that it’s as simple as saying, “Hey, do you want me to navigate?” or, “why don’t I play music?” Peacock explained that this usually works, but if someone resists,”she asks directly: “I don’t feel comfortable when you use your phone while driving, do you mind putting your phone away?”
She emphasized that there are different ways to phrase the message for different age groups, because this is not just a problem of any one generation.
In particular, Peacock says she likes to give presentations to driver’s education classes. This focuses on teens who are just learning to drive and about to get their licenses helps with “stopping the habit before it begins,” Peacock said.
In 2015, Peacock wrote a song parody that has stood the test of time. “All about that safe” about distracted driving and shared the video on YouTube. Singing is one of the reasons Peacock joined pageantry, and her special talent in competition is singing.
The music video also helped Peacock gain opportunities to spread distracted driving prevention messages. Peacock continued to grow her platform for the cause she remains committed to today, and has worked with a variety of local and national organizations that work to end distracted driving.
In 2022, Peacock became a junior board member for the Casey Feldman Foundation. She reflected on how she has been able to learn new ways to educate the public on the dangers of distracted driving from Joel and EndDD. In December, Peacock had the opportunity to join Feldman at an EndDD presentation at South Brunswick High School.
“Throughout my advocacy journey, I have always been eager to learn new methods to effectively communicate the message about ending distracted driving,” Peacock said, “I was able to take what I had learned from Joel and EndDD and apply that to educate members of the South Brunswick community about the dangers of distracted driving.”
Peacock is excited for her future involvement with EndDD and the Casey Feldman Foundation. “I am passionate about ending distracted driving because of Casey and so many others who were taken too soon,” Peacock said.
Her goal to be Miss New Jersey is for the platform that comes with winning the title or even making top five or 10. But Peacock, a 2021 graduate of Montclair State University, says that regardless of the outcome of the pageant, she will continue her work in distracted driving prevention, along with her career of event planning.
“Whether I have a crown on my head or not, that doesn’t change the fact that innocent lives are being taken due to distracted driving. I’m always going to advocate for safe driving.”