2011 Miss America contestant Loren Vaillancourt, Miss South Dakota

DOT Secretary, State Farm Pulling for Miss South Dakota

Secretary Ray LaHood supports contestant Loren Vaillancourt's efforts to educate young drivers about the dangers of distractions as they drive, and he's asking Americans who are inspired by her message to vote for her video before voting closes Thursday. State Farm's Teen Driver Safety Facebook is featuring her video and posts.

The U.S. secretary of transportation, Ray LaHood, has a favorite in Saturday's Miss America pageant in Las Vegas: Miss South Dakota Loren Vaillancourt. He supports her efforts to prevent distracted driving by telling young drivers why it is dangerous. "Loren knows the costs of this epidemic firsthand," LaHood wrote last week. "In May 2009 her brother Kelson, 21, was killed while riding in a car driven by a co-worker who was distracted. But this young woman is transforming her grief into action by taking her message to South Dakota schools."

This week, LaHood posted on the Fast Lane blog instructions and links to vote for Vaillancourt's video in the Miss America contest. Voting can be done via mobile phone -- (not while driving, please) -- or online. Voting will close at 11:59 p.m. PST on Jan. 13. In her contest video, Vaillancourt says, "I challenge you: The next time you go to pick up your phone or choose a radio station, ask yourself, 'Is this call, is this text, is this distraction worth my life or someone else's?' I guarantee, every time you'll say no."

State Farm's Teen Driver Safety Facebook page also features Vaillancourt's posts and some video messages.

"This year's Miss America pageant features an America's Choice category where the public -- that's you and me -- can watch contestant videos and vote online for favorites. I'm embedding Loren's video below so you can see that she has built her entire video message around the campaign to end distracted driving. Whatever happens with the pageant, that makes her a winner in my book," LaHood wrote.

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