Miss America Contestant, State Farm® Drive Dollars to Students Via Facebook

Jan 05, 2011, 08:15 ET from State Farm

BROOKINGS, S.D., Jan. 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Leading up to the Miss America pageant Jan. 15, State Farm is joining Miss South Dakota to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.

Miss South Dakota, Loren Vaillancourt, lost her only sibling last year as a consequence of distracted driving. As a contestant in the Miss America pageant, Vaillancourt is in a unique position to share her family's emotional story about what happened to her brother, Kelson, and draw attention to the terrible risks associated with distracted driving.

State Farm shares Vaillancourt's concern. A US News & World Report analysis in March 2010 ranked South Dakota the least safe place for teens to drive in the United States. The report examined 11 factors that affect teen driving safety, ranging from teen driver fatalities to laws regarding how quickly teens are able to earn unrestricted driving privileges to the average number of miles residents drive within the state.

"When people take unnecessary risks and drive distracted it kills innocent people," Vaillancourt said. "No family should have to go through the pain my family has endured."

A recent State Farm survey shows that despite concerns about getting into an accident, most teen drivers still lack awareness. In the survey of 14 to 17 year olds who intend to have or already have a driver's license, 70 percent of teen drivers admitted to being nervous about being in a crash or hurting someone. But despite these concerns, 57 percent of teens admit to reading or sending text messages while driving.

Two South Dakota schools will receive grants to implement anti-distracted driving programs, thanks to a new State Farm grant opportunity. The total dollar amount of the grants will reflect the number of people who "like" Vaillancourt's online diary of her personal campaign against distracted driving. State Farm will donate up to $10,000 for the grant program.

"State Farm is proud to offer this grant to help bring awareness to distracted driving in South Dakota," said Terry Barton, State Farm Vice President for South Dakota. "We also appreciate Loren's commitment to educating the public and saving lives by generously sharing her personal experience."

Vaillancourt's video diary will be posted on the State Farm Teen Driver Safety Facebook page starting today and continuing through the Miss America pageant. The number of "likes" will be tracked from Jan. 4Jan. 15.

In recent months, Vaillancourt has reached out to South Dakota students to tell her brother's story and share what it's like to lose a loved one to a senseless accident. State Farm has supported her travels and presentations.

In the days before the Miss America pageant, Vaillancourt will blog about her experiences and her anti-distracted driving platform on www.facebook.com/#!/sfteendriving.

About State Farm®:

State Farm insures more cars and homes than any other insurer in the U.S., is the leading insurer of watercraft and is also a leading insurer in Canada. Our 17,800 agents and more than 66,000 employees serve 81 million policies and accounts – more than 79 million auto, fire, life and health policies in the United States and Canada, and nearly 2 million bank accounts. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 34 on the Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit statefarm.com® or in Canada statefarm.ca®.

SOURCE State Farm