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Beauty Queen joins fight against distracted driving

Miss South Dakota, Loren Vaillancourt, has joined the Department of Transportation's fight against distracted driving and has made educating people on the dangers of distracted driving her own personal campaign. The Department of Transportation and Consumer Reports have created a campaign to educate young drivers on the issue and the beauty contestant is featured in the DOT's YouTube series "Faces of Distracted Driving."

In her own efforts, Vaillancourt talks to audiences about losing her younger brother in a car accident caused by distracted driving. Two years ago her brother was riding in a vehicle as a passenger on his way to conduct fieldwork for the South Dakota Fish and Wildlife Service. The driver of the vehicle stopped at a highway intersection regulated by a stop sign. After stopping, the driver pulled out in front of an oncoming semi, and the semi slammed into Vaillancourt's brother's vehicle.

Vaillancourt's younger brother died the next day from brain injuries. Vaillancourt believes the car accident was caused by distracted driving, and says his accident was 100 percent preventable. Many of her presentations are based on informing young drivers that distracted driving is a problem and that it comes in many forms. She says teenage drivers think they are invincible but that they have to realize taking your eyes or concentration off of the road for a few seconds is deadly. She admits when she was that age she thought the exact same way.

According to Consumer Reports, car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, and teen drivers are involved in three times as many crashes as other drivers. When Vaillancourt is not giving presentations, she advocates for the passage of a nationwide distracted driving law.

Source: CBSnews, "Beauty queen takes on distracted driving," 3/7/11

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