NORMAL — A Heyworth teen felt pretty cool driving a new Mitsubishi Outlander Sport to school Thursday.

Jacob Day, 16, the son of Julie and Jeff Day, won the sport utility vehicle at the Tri-County Operation Cool grand finale on Wednesday night at Normal Community High School.

Day, who got his driver's license Nov. 19, didn't have much time to show off the Outlander before classes started at Heyworth High School, but he later got a round of applause from students in one of his classes.

"I think after school they will want to see it," Day said.

He was among several hundred students in McLean, DeWitt and Livingston counties who signed pledges to wear seat belts and not text while driving.

Nineteen of those students — one for each of the participating area high schools — were randomly selected to receive keys to try in the 2014 Outlander donated by Mitsubishi Motors North America.

Three students tried their keys before Day, and their keys didn't fit.

"I was nervous and I was shaking. I put the key in and I didn't think it fit," Day said, "but then there was this ding, ding, ding sound — like there was a connection."

He was told to try again.

"Once the key went in it started right up," he said. "I was speechless. It was beyond words."

Operation Cool is a program designed to promote seat belt usage among teenage drivers in the three countries.

More than 200 prizes were handed out during the event sponsored by Mitsubishi Motors North America and State Farm.

Pontiac Township High School senior Samantha Battle received the Saved by the Belt Award after surviving a head-on collision.

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Reporter

Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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