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State Farm camp drives safety message home
By Gail Fagan, Public Affairs Representative
(956) 665-7995
Posted: 07/30/2012
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An all white bicycle sits outside an auto parts store in McAllen in remembrance of cyclist Roy Carlson, who was struck and killed by a hit and run driver in 2010 on a nearby road.

The impact of his untimely death on his family and friends and the conflict between cyclists and drivers in the Rio Grande Valley is the focus of the documentary "Two Wheels" put together by McAllen teenager Jacob Ramon.


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Participants in the State Farm Leadership Camp July 20-22 at UTPA are pictured with State Farm agent Ruben Solis (BS '84), who talked to them about the responsibilities involved in driving and the company's upcoming Celebrate My Drive event scheduled at the University and nationwide on Sept. 15.
The film's message of the importance of responsible driving and sharing the road with other vehicles was one of many messages a group of 21 Rio Grande Valley students heard July 20-22 during the State Farm Leadership Camp held at The University of Texas-Pan American.

"It's really scary how people in the Valley don't respect cyclists. You would be shocked to hear about the number of cyclists who get hit on a monthly basis in the Valley," said Daniela Diaz, a UTPA senior journalism major, who talked to the students about the documentary and how the incident affected her brother, who was cycling with Carlson when they both were struck. "It's great that you are here and really care. We want more people to learn to share the road and to respect cyclists. Be a messenger about it."

The camp was designed to promote auto, cycling and pedestrian safety among Valley students and is one activity that is part of a larger, UTPA campuswide project — Broncs Auto Safety Education (BASE) — funded by a grant from State Farm, to promote the lifelong adoption of auto, cycling and pedestrian safety practices that will continue to be used well past graduation, said Jeanette Broshears, UTPA associate dean of students.

During the camp for middle school to high school students who applied to participate, attendees researched statistics and information related to distracted driving, such as texting or drinking while driving, and pedestrian and bicycle safety. They also participated in navigating a low ropes course and building balloon towers to enhance their skills in leadership and working as a team.

"Participants were able to engage in interactive, hands-on activities to learn about safe cycling and driving practices and how to develop awareness-raising campaigns they can take back to their schools," Broshears said.

Campers heard from a number of local State Farm agents who talked to them about the responsibilities involved in driving a vehicle.

Ruben Solis (BS '84), a State Farm agent in La Joya, said State Farm's initiative is about communicating with young people early on about safe and responsible driving.


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Several State Farm Leadership Camp participants are pictured with their balloon tower they constructed, an activity that promotes teamwork. The middle school to high school students who attended will return to their schools to spread the message to other students on the importance of safe driving and sharing the road.
"You are the leaders of the future ... we want you to stay alive," he told the students in his presentation on driver education and awareness.

He said he hoped they will take what they learn at the camp back to school and make a difference.

State Farm will sponsor an event at UTPA and nationwide on Sept. 15 titled "Celebrate My Drive," which will embrace the milestone of teens getting their driver licenses while educating them on how to stay safe on the road.

"The key to this is what you learn," said Solis, who described two State Farm sponsored websites where students could learn more and advocate for safe and smarter driving.

The website http://teendriving.statefarm.com/ provides free tools, tips, and resources designed to help teens and their parents throughout the learning-to-drive process. At http://www.sfprojectignition.com/students team up with teachers to create effective teen driver safety campaigns in their schools and communities.

Camper Bianca Mujica, a sophomore at South Texas Business, Education & Technology Academy in Edinburg, said she often worries about her father's safety when he takes off for a Saturday ride on his bicycle, even though he practices safe cycling.

"It's pretty scary; I always worry about that kind of thing (an accident) but I didn't realize how bad it really was. He says a lot of drivers don't seem really concerned and some have come close to hitting him," she said.

Mujica appeared eager to take the messages about safe driving back to her campus.

"A lot of issues we are talking about affect my life directly so I wanted to help with that. We want to help other people understand the real impact of this. We want to put statistics out there and let people know it could be you or someone you know who is impacted," Mujica said.

Learn more about the State Farm's Celebrate My Drive Event here. See a photo gallery of State Farm Leadership Camp activities. For more information about the camp or BASE project, contact Tasha Ramirez, State Farm project coordinator, at tnramirez@utpa.edu or (956)665-5211.