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Michelin will pay $100,000 of college tuition for one young, responsible driver

The Michelin Man could send you to college if you can prove you’re a responsible driver. All it takes is a penny.

The tire manufacturer is giving away $100,000 toward college tuition in its “Penny for a Free Ride” contest. One lucky young driver will win for inspecting their tires — either gauging tire pressure or performing the “penny tread test” to check tread depth.

The penny test is simple: Drivers insert a penny into the groove of a tire with Lincoln’s head upside down, facing them. If they can still see all of his head, that means the tread depth is low, and the driver should consider changing their tires.

How to enter

The contest, open to drivers between ages 15 and 21, runs October 22 through December 3.

Entrants must post a photo or video proving they performed either tire test and tag #pennyforafreeride and @MichelinUSA on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (sorry, public accounts only).

If transportation safety is too mortifying to share on social media, they can submit their entries online at

Michelin says the odds of winning are 1 in 4,500–not too shabby for a free ride.

Tuition is getting more expensive

The contest comes at an opportune time: Tuition is more expensive than ever, averaging around $19,400 for public universities and $41,500 for private universities per year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

And while teen driver deaths are lower than ever, new drivers are still more than three times as likely as adults to get in deadly accidents, AAA reported in 2017.

Tire tread depth isn’t a glamorous subject, but it’s pivotal for safe travels: Low tire depth impedes a car’s ability to grip the road in severe weather, and nearly 750 deaths every year are attributed to tire issues, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration reported.

Michelin recommends checking tread depth once a month. And if you’re tired of tire tests, Michelin and GM invented an airless one so you’ll never get a flat again.

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