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Minnesota teens urged to create safe driving TV spots to win $1,000

As TV spots featuring Clydesdales, cars, talking babies and colas cue up for Super Bowl Sunday, Minnesota teenagers are creating their own TV commercials to promote traffic safety.

Students in grades 9-12 are invited to produce a 30-second TV public service announcement about the importance of buckling up or the dangers of distracted driving. The top teen will win $1,000 and their spot will air during the televised MTV Video Music Awards in 2013. Entries are due April 15.

The Buckle Up and Pay Attention Teens! TV Commercial Challenge allows teens to choose their safety topic: seat belts or distracted driving. The contest is sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety and AAA.

The contest's finalists will be selected by DPS and AAA for a public online vote in May. AAA will award first-, second- and third-place winners with $1,000, $600 and $400, respectively.

"Traffic crashes are the leading killer of teens and this contest is one way to steer attention to common problems with teens behind the wheel," says Gordy Pehrson, DPS teen driving coordinator. "When teens share their creations with peers, it enhances the value and importance of the message."

Driver inexperience, risk-taking behavior, distractions, nighttime driving and seat belt non-use are the leading reasons for teen driving crashes and resulting deaths. In Minnesota during 2009-2011, 108 teen vehicle occupants (ages 13-19), were killed and only 35 (32 percent) were belted. Another 408 teens were seriously injured in crashes and only 226 (55 percent) were belted.

"Every year, new teen drivers take to the wheel, so it is critical that we stay focused to educate them and keep them safe," says Gail Weinholzer, director of Public Affairs, AAA Minnesota/Iowa. "This contest promotes teen enthusiasm and creativity to encourage safe driving behavior."

2012 Contest Winner

The 2012 Buckle Up, Teens! contest winner was St. Michael's Eli Guillou, who produced "Big Deal"-- View contest-winning spots from previous years.

Parent Roles and Responsibilities to Develop Safer Teen Drivers

DPS urges parents to talk to their teens about the life-saving importance of seat belts, and the dangers and consequences of speeding, distracted driving and alcohol use.

Parents are encouraged to continue to provide supervised experience for their teen driver in a variety of conditions and road types and use a parent-teen driver contract to establish road rules, reinforce the laws and follow through with consequences. Find more teen driving resources for parents.

"Parent involvement is especially important during the first year of licensure, which is the most dangerous time for teen drivers," says Pehrson.