By William Hageman, Tribune Newspapers
September 1, 2013
When singer Kelly Clarkson first got behind the wheel as a 17-year-old, she was a careful driver. And it wasn't because of anything she learned in driver's ed.
"It was weird," she said by phone. "I was fairly cautious because I was extremely nervous. My mom used to laugh at me. I was afraid of going over a bridge, of being close to other cars. … I was terrified at first."
Clarkson was reminiscing about her days as a freshly minted driver in conjunction with a new role: spokeswoman for the State Farm Insurance Celebrate My Drive program, which emphasizes safe driving for teenagers.
The leading cause of death among Americans ages 15-19 is accidental injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Clarkson recognizes the danger of talking on the phone or texting while driving.
"One reason I signed up with State Farm, my fiance and I have this thing: 'OK, get off your phone (in the car),'" Clarkson said. "Something serious can happen over such a silly thing."
To participate in the program, students, parents, teachers and community members register themselves at celebratemydrive.com. The deadline is Oct. 18. Then, during National Teen Driver Safety Week (Oct. 18-26), students and others can go online to make safe driving commitments on behalf of their high school. The more commitments, the better the chance of winning a grant for the school. Prizes include 90 $25,000 grants and 10 $100,000 grants, and two schools will win concerts by Clarkson.
"My favorite thing, we don't want to do scare tactics," Clarkson said. "I think it is a scary situation, but we're pretty positive. We tell (teen drivers), celebrate it. It's an awesome moment in your life, getting your license, getting that freedom. But you have to be responsible."
Clarkson realizes she is in a good position to get that message across.
"I have a lot of young fans," she said. "It's a cool thing that I have this spotlight and have that group of young fans I can reach."
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