PIERRE - Because one of its students wanted to learn how to be a safe driver, White Lake High School is now $10,000 richer.
Former White Lake student Audrie Lawrence is the winner of this year's "Lesson Learned SD" program. The South Dakota Office of Highway Safety designed the program to encourage young people to be safe drivers. This is the third year for the program.
Besides Audrie winning $10,000, the school itself received $10,000. As designated by Audrie and with some assistance from Superintendent Robert Schroeder, the money will go to the school's music program and school program about bullying. The cash prizes are sponsored by the South Dakota Broadcasters Association.
"Everyone benefits from this worthy program," says Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, who participated in the safe driving assembly Tuesday at the school. "Good driving habits are best learned at a young age, and this program reminds our students how important it is to buckle up, slow down and not look at electronic devices."
The "Lesson Learned SD" website featured safe driving videos on issues such as distracted driving, seatbelt use and driving under the influence. The contest requires its young entrants, South Dakota drivers between the ages of 14 and 19, to watch videos and answer the follow-up safety questions. With the correct answers, those young drivers are eligible for the cash prize.
Audrie was one of 3,479 eligible entries. In 2017, the number of entries was 2,465.
"Each year, the number of students participating in the program has increased," says Office of Highway Safety Director Lee Axdahl. "We have tailored many of our safe driving messages towards young people and it is good to see them striving to be safe drivers."
Steve Willard, executive director of the South Dakota Broadcasters Association, says broadcasters are pleased to be part of the safe driving effort. "It is real money and it goes to kids who have financial needs at that age and it goes to worthy programs at the schools," he says.
"But the message and education are even more important. Long after the money is gone and even without the prize, participating students are learning how to be safe drivers. That is a life-long skill and may keep someone alive."
South Dakota's Office of Highway Safety is part of the state Department of Public Safety.