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Discovery student's texting warning wins contest

Micaela Swenson was chosen as the winner of the 2012 Teen Distracted Driving Campaign Contest. Members from the Douglas County Safe Communities Coalition are pictured with the teen and her school principal (left to right): Matt Aker - Discovery Middle School Principal, Ron Boyden - Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Swenson, Crystal Hoepner - Douglas County Public Health, Jim Gripne - Alexandria Police Department. Contributed photo.

Distracted driving poses a serious safety risk to drivers of all ages, and particularly to relatively inexperienced teen drivers.

One Discovery Middle School student is doing her part to spread the message about this dangerous behavior.

On Monday, April 16, Douglas County Safe Communities Coalition announced the winning entry for the 2012 county-wide teen distracted driving campaign contest.

Micaela Swenson, a 9th grader at Discovery Middle School, was selected as the contest winner with her message and design, "Pocket the phone or pocket the ticket."

Micaela was presented with a $100 Visa gift card by members of the Safe Communities Coalition, and her message is now being featured on a banner that hangs over Broadway, near 3rd Avenue in Alexandria.

Swenson's winning entry is also displayed in schools this week and will be used in various campaign activities throughout the county for up to one year.

This was the first year the Safe Communities Coalition hosted the contest in conjunction with National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and a kickoff to local and statewide distracted driving enforcement efforts.

Twenty entries were submitted by 9th-12th grade students from throughout the county. The winning entry was selected by considering several contest components including creativity and impact of the message.

Teens are at greatest risk on the road due to inexperience, risk-taking behind the wheel, speeding and distracted driving. Teens also have the lowest seat belt use rate of all age groups according to the Office of Traffic Safety, a Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Each year, more than 30 teens (ages 16 to 19) are killed on Minnesota roads.

To view all of the contest entries, go to the website or on Facebook, /dcsafecommunities.

The contest was sponsored by Douglas County Safe Communities, AAA of Minnesota-Iowa, and Operation Round-Up.

The Safe Communities Coalition is a component of the state's Toward Zero Death (TZD) program, to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior.