Every Miss America contestant chooses a platform issue. While other beauty queens may try to tackle tough social problems like world hunger or poverty, Miss South Dakota has selected an issue that she says is completely preventable, yet causes thousands of deaths each year -- distracted driving.
Partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation, reigning Miss South Dakota Loren Vaillancourt is raising awareness on road safety. She released a video dedicated to her brother, Kelson, who was killed by a distracted driver when he was 21 years old.
She says Kelson was traveling to a work field site with a coworker. The driver of the car became distracted and ignored a stop sign, pulling out into oncoming traffic. Their car was hit by a tractor-trailer. Kelson was promptly rushed to the hospital, but died the next day due to brain injuries.
"I held my 21-year-old brother's hand while he died. Just because someone made one stupid mistake, I'm an only child now. Nothing is worth that. No distraction is worth that."
According to a poll presented by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, 63 percent of drivers under 30 years of age admit to using mobile phones while driving.
Vaillancourt says that increasing awareness regarding the statistics of distracted driving may convince more people to stop.
"I feel like that's the case with most people, is that they don't realize how big of a problem this is until it happens to them or it happens to someone they know."