Innovative program takes softer approach to instill safe driving habits.

Receiving a driver's license can be one of the most exciting times in a teenager's life, but it can also be one of the most dangerous times. Young driver's are becoming more and more distracted while driving, leading to an estimated statistic of 330,000 people who are injured or killed annually due to cell phone use behind the wheel. State Farm Insurance and Andy Oman, Crookston's State Farm Insurance Agent, are very concerned about the safety of young drivers, but instead of using scare tactics to get to teenage drivers, State Farm is sponsoring a new event, "Celebrate My Drive" which will be held on Saturday, Sept. 15 in the Crookston High School parking lot.

"Celebrate My Drive" is a teen driver safety campaign that celebrates the responsibility of driving, especially for adolescent drivers. There will be 13 National "Celebrate my Drive" events around the country, one happening to be in Crookston. Students between the ages of 14-17 years old from the Crookston School District and other surrounding areas are invited to participate in the fun-filled event where they will have many chances to win prizes.

"'Celebrate My Drive' is unique in that it encourages teens to focus on the opportunities a driver's license opens up and rallies our community around our new teen driver," said Oman.

With research showing that teens are more receptive to positive messaging, State Farm and Oman want to make sure this learning experience is fun, and with give-a-way prizes (including a chance for students to win a $100,000 grant for their school), the popular dunk tank and multiple obstacle courses, that shouldn't be too hard to do.

As far as the school grant, interested community members can vote for their favorite local school to win a $100,000 grant at through Sept. 15. "One teenager, aged 15 through 18, and his or her family who participates in the online school grant voting process will win a new Chevrolet Sonic LS," added Oman.

The golf cart obstacle course will be promoting safe driving by giving teens a chance to drive the golf cart through the obstacle course twice, once without texting and once while texting. The CHS prom committee will be running the dunk tank, the only attraction with a fee, to generate extra funds for prom. The Fire Dept. and EMS will perform a simulated traffic accident demonstration. Fatal vision goggles will also be available for teens to show what it is like to be intoxicated and drive, or just perform simple tasks.

Besides providing complimentary food, refreshments and educational fun throughout the day, State Farm has one more giveaway for the day. They will be funding a $2,500 teen driver safety grant to the Crookston Police Department. "The funds will go towards special teen driver safety education projects throughout the school year," said Oman. These projects will include seat belt awareness, anti-texting, not a drop awareness, a teen survey on texting and having speakers come in to talk about the dangers of texting and driving.

Today, cell phone use is a factor in an estimated 25 percent of all crashes, and 19 percent of motorists admit to texting while driving. State Farm would like to drop these numbers until they are nonexistent. "Educating our young people about safe driving is vitally important, and "Celebrate My Drive" can help teens learn lifelong lessons," commented Oman. "I greatly encourage families to take part."