Guest columns to the Beacon could score cash for teens

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By The Staff

AAA has announced a Safe Summer contest to run from July 1 through Sept 9, inviting high school and college students to produce effective communication campaigns that will help AAA spread the Buckle Up message and otherwise promote driving safety.

The contest is a grassroots effort designed to engage teens and their peers in conversations that will improve driver safety, by encouraging them to create effective avenues and messages.

The messages and the means for delivery will be left up to the students, but can include an Op-Ed piece (guest column) published in a college newspaper or community weekly; a PSA for radio or cable TV; a poster; or a video for a social media site.

“We believe that if we can effectively communicate the importance of always buckling up and avoiding the dangerous distractions that text messaging and cell phones create to teens, we can go a long way in establishing safe driving habits and conscientious behavior that can last a lifetime,” said Kevin Bakewell, senior vice president, AAA Auto Club South.

And, what better way to communicate that message than to go directly to the source,” Bakewell added. “That’s why this contest makes sense for us: For those who enter, the contest requirements might reveal some talents they didn’t know they had. Considering how increasingly difficult it is for many teens to find a summer job, it can be rewarding, too, especially when there will be 19 cash prizes awarded.”

Winners will be announced in September. AAA is awarding one $10,000 cash grand prize; eight $2,000 second-place prizes; and ten $1,000 third-place prizes for a total of $36,000. A panel of AAA employees will judge the entries for both quality and impact including creativity and the number of readers, listeners, and viewers reached.

To qualify, students must live in Florida, Georgia or Tennessee and be between 13 and 19 years of age as of July 1, 2009. The contest is only valid in those three states. Entries must be postmarked no later than September 9, 2009.

Teenagers are known for taking life-threatening risks. Teens decide not to wear safety belts more often than any other age group. Two-thirds of teen drivers and passengers killed in crashes involve teens who did not wear a safety belt, according to a recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

With the exception of 1992, more than 40,000 people throughout the U.S. have died each year as a result of traffic crashes—a total of 1.6 million deaths throughout the past four decades. With the Safe Summer Campaign, AAA wants to spark a change in the status quo of benign acceptance of such casualties and reduce their number through substantial education and awareness of driving behaviors to improve traffic safety.

For additional information on all aspects of the AAA Safe Summer Campaign and a variety of traffic safety topics, please visit www.AAA.com/SafeSummer.

We’re happy to help. Send the Beacon your Op/Ed piece promoting teen safe driving. We’ll publish it. You send it to AAA’s safe summer contest.