The state's representative in the pageant, Loren Vaillancourt, has centered her message around distracted driving.
Admittedly, pageants make some people uncomfortable, as relics of an uncomfortably gender-biased past (and present). But they also raise awareness of key issues, and give voices to causes that might not otherwise see the spotlight.
In a YouTube video posted by MissAmerica.org (and below), Vaillancourt explains that she lost her brother last year due to distracted driving. A promotional picture also shows her posed in front of a Mazda CX-7.
Vaillancourt drops one of the most important—and stunning—figures: that 30 percent of accidents are now caused by cellphone use in vehicles.
"I want to be your next Miss America because I can save lives," she sums.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood highlighted Vaillancourt's efforts in a post this week on his FastLane blog. "Those inspired by Loren's efforts to educate young drivers and soon-to-be drivers about the dangers of texting or talking on a cell phone while driving should consider opportunities in their own communities to promote an anti-distraction message," he wrote, adding that she has done a "terrific job raising awareness among young people in South Dakota."
If you're especially concerned about driver distraction, it's another reason to root for Miss South Dakota on the 2011 Miss America contest, airing this Saturday, January 15, at 9 p.m. EST on ABC TV.