Downingtown teen wins safe driving competition

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Kaleigh Krakower from Downingtown West High School (left) won the Southeastern Pennsylvania Teen Safe Driving Competition. Taking first place, she also won a $2,000 scholarship. Tara Klepacki of Chichester High School (center) finished second and Hunter Watterson of Coatesville High School (right) finished third.

On May 3, 2017, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Teen Safe Driving Competition was held at the West Whiteland Township Police Department in Exton. The winner of the contest was Kaleigh Krakower from Downingtown West High School. Kaleigh also won a $2,000 scholarship. Tara Klepacki of Chichester High School finished second and Hunter Watterson of Coatesville High School finished third.

The safe driving competition was hosted by the Chester County District Attorneys Office Highway Safety Project, together with traffic safety partners from Delaware County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia. Law enforcement officers from the Pennsylvania State Police, Coatesville Police Department, Radnor Police Department, and West Whiteland Police Department helped to judge the contest. Opening comments were provided by District Attorney Tom Hogan. There were “CruisinSmart” presentations by Chris Weersing and Christie Reinhardt, who both survived serious crashes and talked to the competitors about the aftermath of those crashes.

Krakower, the winning student, stated, “The competition was extremely informative and eye-opening. I learned a lot about being a safe and cautious driver.”

Dr. Patricia Bell, the Assistant Principal of Downingtown West High School, added, “The Teen Safe Driving Competition provided students with scholarships in recognition of their excellent driving knowledge and skills. Our Downingtown West students responded with enthusiasm and demonstrated their dedication to being safe drivers. We look forward to participating in this important and worthwhile program again.”

The competition has three elements. First, the students perform on the driving range, which includes the serpentine, parking skills, judgment and spacing, and other challenges. Second is the perceptual driving slide test, in which a photo is displayed on a screen for 10 seconds and then three questions are asked based on what the students observed. Third and finally, the students take a written examination. The students also had the opportunity to get into a tractor-trailer and see the blind spots for big-rig drivers.

Motor vehicle crashes remain one of the two leading causes of death for citizens in the United States, topped only by drug overdoses. This·competition, open to all high schools in Southeastern Pennsylvania, is a way to highlight the risks for teenagers and reinforce good driving habits.

“Too often, law enforcement only gets to see the consequences of bad teen driving — broken bodies and shattered lives,” Hogan said. “It was a pleasure for all of us to work with students who are models of good technical driving skills and outstanding judgment.”

The first and second place finishers, Kaleigh Krakower and Tara Klepacki, both now advance to the state-wide Pennsylvania Safe Driving Competition for Youth in Camp Hill. They will be competing with teens from across Pennsylvania for an additional $5,000 in scholarship money and the state title.

In the competition, the vehicles were donated by Sloan Ford of Exton. The scholarship funds were donated by AAA MidAtlantic, Paoli Hospital, Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, and Kohl’s. The Chester County Highway Safety Project is a partnership between the Chester County District Attorney’s Office and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

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