ST. PAUL — Minnesota teenagers in grades 9–12 who produce 30-second TV public service announcements promoting seat belt use could win $1,000 and see their commercial air during the televised MTV Video Music Awards in 2012.
The Buckle Up, Teens! TV Commercial Challenge contest is sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety and AAA Minnesota/Iowa. The deadline for entries is Monday, April 16, 2012. Rules and entry forms are online at ots.dps.mn.gov.
The announcement of the contest comes during National Teen Driver Safety Week, Oct. 17–22, and as Minnesota law enforcement agencies continue enhanced enforcement of unbelted drivers and passengers through Oct. 27.
The contests’ finalists will be selected by DPS and AAA Minnesota/Iowa for a public online vote in May 2012. AAA Minnesota/Iowa will award first-, second- and third-place winners with $1,000, $600 and $400, respectively.
“We see solid belt use for kids up until about age 15, but once they start riding with their peers, belt use drops off,” says Gordy Pehrson, DPS youth programs coordinator. “This contest gives teens a chance to encourage their peers to belt up, and that’s an effective ‘inside’ way to communicate with this group.”
Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in Minnesota due to driver inexperience, risk-taking behavior, distractions, nighttime driving, speeding and seat belt non-use. In Minnesota during 2008–2010, 100 teen vehicle occupants (ages 13–19), were killed and only 39 were belted. Another 483 teens were seriously injured in crashes and only 229 were belted.
“AAA is dedicated to improving the safety of teen drivers,” says Gail Weinholzer, director of Public Affairs, AAA Minnesota/Iowa. “We believe that reaching out and involving teens can help make them responsible for their own safety.”
In 2011, the TV contest focused on the dangers of distracted driving. The winning spot, “Football,” was produced by Stillwater Area High School students. See all 2011 finalists at www.rockthebelt.org.
To-date in 2011, there have been 268 traffic deaths compared to 328 at this time in 2010.
Teen seat belt enforcement and education efforts are a component of the state’s core traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD). A primary vision of the TZD program is 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. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes — education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.