South Dakota teenagers can enjoy more driving privileges than teens in surrounding states. But some believe that is why the state's teen-injury and death rate from motor vehicle crashes is one of the highest in the nation. But those teens who enjoy driving are also the ones lending advice to reverse that trend.
South Dakota students want to make the roads safer for themselves and everyone in the future. The South Dakota Voices for Children Kids Speak panel has six students ranging in age from 13 to 17-years-old.
"It is about teen driving safety so I think it is important for teens to be able to speak about it and not just adults, because teens know how it is," Raina Grimsley said.
Grimsley is from Mitchell and 13-years-old. That means she'll be getting behind the wheel in just one year. She's hoping the state lawmakers listening Friday take what the teens have to say back with them to Pierre next legislative session.
"I hope they learn about how important it is to make a change because things are not really great right now. And if we change them, then things could be a lot better for South Dakota," Grimsley said.
The teens speaking Friday hope their voices are heard long after they're done presenting. They hope they can inspire changes, not only in South Dakota, but also, perhaps, across the country.
"The fact that we're losing on average six teens every day because of distracted driving, I think it's really something we need to address," Elliot Johnson said.
Elliot Johnson, 17, of Brookings has taken his message against teenage distracted driving all the way to Washington, D.C. While many teens are seemingly connected to cell phones, Johnson is against the use of them when behind the wheel.
"We actually have it very bad in South Dakota right now. Our safety laws are at the bottom in rankings. We come from a state that needs a lot of work," Johnson said.
And now after the event, those who spoke to the crowd hope safety on South Dakota roads improves.
"Something can happen and I think if we listen to the kids today, we can make a change for next year," Johnson said.
Kids Speak is an annual event with the topic of discussion decided upon each year by a panel of teens.