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Teens can submit TV commercials about unsafe activities behind the wheel

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If your friend is driving with a lead foot, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and AAA want you to be a loud mouth.

The organizations are calling for Minnesota teens to produce TV commercials that promote the importance of "speaking up" when riding with friends who engage in unsafe activities behind the wheel. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, eclipsing the death total of the next four causes combined.

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In May, judges will post the top spots online for a public viewing and voting period to determine a winner. AAA will award a grand prize of $1,000 for the winning producer, $600 for second place and $400 for third place. The winning spot will also make its TV broadcast premiere this summer on programming to be determined.

Over the last three years on Minnesota roads, 176 teens ages 16-19 were killed -- 70 percent of the deaths were in greater Minnesota.

"The goal is for teens to educate and convince their peers that telling a driver to hang up the cell phone, or telling a passenger to buckle up is a smart and important action to take," says Gordy Pehrson, youth driving coordinator for the state's Office of Traffic Safety.

"Teenagers continue to be a huge risk on the road, and they need to know that something as simple as using their voice can prevent a tragedy."

Minnesota students in grades 9-12 are eligible to enter. The 30-second spots are due to DPS on April 21; winners will be announced later in May. Teens are encouraged to post their spots on popular video-sharing Web sites and social networking pages, and share with other students.

Find rules and entry forms online at www.dps.state.mn.us/ots, click on the "Speak Up, Teens!" link under "What's New."

This is the fourth year of the DPS/AAA teen TV commercial challenge. Past competitions focused on the importance of buckling up and the dangers of driving distracted.

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