MRS. NEW YORK STATE 2008 TELLS IROQUOIS TEENS OF HER OWN CRASHES
"Car crashes are the number one killer of teens in America." That was the ugly truth that Jennifer Stehlar, Mrs. New York American Beauty 2008, revealed to Iroquois High School students in a set of school assemblies.Stehlar, a Western New York native who also holds the title of Mrs. New York USA 2006, knows more than she would like to about car crashes--she's the victim of two life-threatening collisions. The first was in 2004, when her car was struck as she was driving home from her grandmother's house. In the crash, Stehlar sustained brain injuries, and has suffered from tempomandibular joint disorder since the collision. Stehlar told Iroquois students that the medical difficulties, costs for her care and rehabilitation efforts forced her to give up her home in Las Vegas and halted her lucrative career as a musical performer there.
After 11 months of rehabilitation and therapy, Stehlar was in another near-fatal crash in September 2005, this time while riding with her father, Michael Daniel of Brant. "That moment has forever changed my life," she said of the second accident. "The only reason I'm still alive is because of my seatbelt... six in 10 teen drivers do not wear seatbelts."
Stehlar sustained additional brain injuries, and her father was hurt in the crash as well. After undergoing a second long round of intensive therapy, Stehlar still suffers from pain caused by the accident, but has not let it stop her. She decided, instead, to use her experiences as a way of teaching others the importance of vehicle safety.
She and her father filmed a public service announcement about their crash and the importance of wearing a seatbelt, and in 2007 she began an official partnership with the New York State Police to promote automobile safety. That partnership brought Stehlar and several New York State Troopers to Iroquois last week for the first "Driving Skills for Life" assembly in New York State, presented in conjunction with Ford Motors and DeLacy Ford.
In the assembly, which included a presentation from Stehlar and a video from Ford, students learned that more than half of young drivers will be in a crash before they reach age 20. Troopers told the students that the crash rates for teen drivers is highest within the first six months that they have a license. To help prevent accidents, the video covered the topics of hazard recognition, vehicle handling, space management and speed management. Stehlar and the troopers reviewed driving skills with the students, awarding t-shirts and prizes to those who answered correctly. That evening, adults had a chance to attend a section designed for the parents of teen drivers.
To find out more about Stehlar and her safety campaign, visit her Web site, www.mrsny2008.com. Information on driver safety from Ford is available at http://www.drivingskillsforlife.com/.
©East Aurora Advertiser 2008