Lindsey Giannini’s friends know there’s one thing Giannini won’t abide.

“They don’t text and drive while I’m in the car,” she said Monday.

Giannini, 19, has worked to curb texting and driving since 2011, launching a Stay Alive … Don’t Text & Drive campaign that has drawn attention across the state.

Now, her passion is also her platform as she competes as Miss Atlantic County at this year’s Miss New Jersey pageant, slated for June 10-15 in Ocean City. She has competed in pageants since 2011 with this platform.

“I just have this desire to want to help people, and that means keeping people safe,” she said as People Against Distracted Driving, a group she helped found, launched its first national initiative. Tractor trailers carrying the “Don’t text and drive” message will be used as traveling billboards.

The message is a personal one for Giannini, and that’s key for this year’s contestants, said Miss New Jersey Education Foundation Executive Director Lou Barthold.

“The platforms are very important,” Barthold said. “We suggest that you pick a platform that you believe in and that has national appeal.”

This year’s 23 contestants have a range of platforms with some supporting volunteering, while others focus on specific illnesses, such as breast cancer awareness, educational areas such preventing bullying, or efforts to support military service members.

“That’s all part of the packet the judges get,” Barthold said, noting that contestants submit a platform essay and are judged based on an interview, which includes discussion of the platform; talent; evening wear; swimsuit; and an on-stage question, also likely about their platforms.

“I’m sure it has a bearing on the outcome,” he said.

Giannini took on her battle against texting and driving before she ever competed in a pageant, working with highway safety construction supervisor Mike Kellenyi on how to produce signs with the slogan. Kellenyi’s 18-year-old daughter later died in a car crash caused by a distracted driver. Her death would strengthen Giannini’s focus.

“I really think it’s my mission in life right now,” she said, adding that competing in Miss New Jersey is another means to that end. “Competing is a way to promote the platform.”

Giannini, of Hammonton, said contestants take various approaches, some aligning themselves with existing causes or, in her case, starting a nonprofit, but the result should be working for something that matters.

She spent part of Monday speaking to representatives of New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance, hoping to win support for the campaign. The day would also include a vigil for Nikki Kellenyi.

“Regardless of what happens in June, this is something I’ll keep doing,” Giannini said.

Contact Trudi Gilfillian:


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