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Published December 10 2010

Students help DOT launch contest

After losing one of their own in a recent car crash, Fargo South High students Thursday helped the North Dakota Department of Transportation launch its second annual Teen Traffic Safety Contest.

The statewide contest encourages teens to create a 30-second video or billboard design and plan a traffic safety event in their school or community.

The contest targets three areas: distracted driving, underage drinking and driving, and seat-belt use.

Teenage drivers accounted for 21 percent of all North Dakota crashes last year, according to the DOT.

“Teenagers are highly overrepresented in traffic fatalities in North Dakota,” said Mark Nelson, the DOT’s safety director.

In the past five years, 101 teenagers have died on the state’s roadways, Nelson said, saying the figure “is a tragedy, and it’s preventable.”

Beth Osman, Brittany Diederich and Addison Duval, seniors in the Fargo South chapter of DECA, an association of marketing students, promoted their safe-driving campaign titled “Be Aware, Take Care.” They’re also participating in the contest.

The contest kickoff came less than two months after Tyler Tweten, a 17-year-old junior at Fargo South, was killed as a result of a car crash. Tweten died Oct. 16 after a car driven by a 16-year-old girl hit a tree in north Fargo.

Diederich said while she didn’t know Tweten personally, “Tragedy getting that close just kind of pushes the reality of … not driving carefully to a new level, and it really helps us to want to educate other people and try to get them to drive more safely.”

“It kind of brought the fact that teenagers aren’t invincible and we can’t have this mentality that nothing’s going to happen to us,” Osman added.

Students may work on the contest alone or in groups up to five, Nelson said. The winner will receive $1,000 from AAA North Dakota and Walmart, and their school will get a $1,000 traffic safety grant from the DOT.

Last year’s contest winner, Rugby High School, saw a 13 percent jump in seat-belt use after the contest wrapped up in March, Nelson said.

Teens ages 14 to 19 may register for the contest until Feb. 11 by going to www.ndteendrivers.com.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528