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Students promote safe driving

 Grace Bateman surveys seatbelt use this week leading up to prom.By Anna Erickson

Park Rapids We Decide members are bringing awareness to safe driving habits to gear up for prom next weekend.

This week, members of the youth group We Decide did seatbelt checks before and after school and during both lunches. It was simply an observation of drivers and passengers to see if they were wearing seatbelts.

“A lot of people were wearing seatbelts but a surprising number didn’t have them on,” said We Decide member Jordyn Bynum, who observed students arriving at school Thursday morning.

Announcements are being made each day highlighting driver safety. This is leading up to prom, which is Saturday, May 4.

Next week, North Memorial Ambulance will do another seatbelt check before school and give out music downloads and other rewards for wearing a seatbelt.

Grace Bateman, We Decide president, and Samantha Boyd, We Decide vice president, did seatbelt observations during lunch Thursday. They, too, found that most students were wearing seatbelts but some were not.

They will be giving out neon, glow in the dark wristbands that say “Live smart! Cross your heart. Wear your seatbelt” that will be given to students wearing seatbelts and also to students who ride the bus and are interested.

We Decide students have volunteered to do this activity, which is part of the TZD (Toward Zero Death) grant through St Joseph’s Area Health Services for Hubbard County. The grant emphasis is on seat belt use, distracted driving, and speeding.

Another part of the TZD initiative is to bring awareness to distracted driving. It’s estimated that distracted drivers account for one in four crashes annually.

Distracted or inattentive driving happens when a driver engages in any activity that might distract them from their primary task of driving.

Young drivers are more likely to be distracted, whether it is by passengers, their cell phone or music.

“Most people don’t know that it’s illegal for drivers less than 18 years of age to use a cell phone while driving, except to call 911,” said Brenda Johnson, Park Rapids Area Schools driver education teacher. She lets them know that bad choices made while could lead to serious consequences.

Calvin Bateman, a Park Rapids student, works to keep distractions while driving to a minimum.

“I’ve always worn my seatbelt ever since I was a kid,” Bateman says. “I don’t even think about it anymore. As far as I’m concerned when it comes to distracted driving, it’s just common sense to do the right thing and not put yourself at risk.”

Safe drivers should be mindful to do the following:

n Turn cell phones to silent or ask a passenger to handle calls/texts;

n Pre-program favorite radio stations;

n Adjust seat position, mirrors, and heat/AC prior to driving and

n Don’t eat or drink while driving.

Another point made by the TZD committee brings about awareness for drivers who encounter emergency vehicles parked on the road or roadside.

In August 2000, the Minnesota Legislature adopted the Ted Foss – Move Over Law after State Trooper Ted Foss was struck and killed by a distracted driver while conducting a traffic stop.

The law was created to give emergency vehicles room to work on the portion of roadway they’re occupying by requiring motorists to leave a lane (or as much room as possible) between them and parked emergency vehicles.

The Move Over Law requires drivers to reduce their speed while passing any type of emergency vehicles or road equipment including ambulances, police vehicles, fire trucks, tow vehicles and any construction or maintenance vehicles.

Hubbard County’s work as part of the Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) coalition is funded by a $12,000 grant sponsored through St. Joseph’s Area Health Services.

Coalition members include representatives from St. Joseph’s Community Health, North Memorial Ambulance, Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office, Headwaters Driving School, Park Rapids Police Department, and Hubbard County engineering.

The mission of the TZD coalition is to “eliminate traffic deaths and injuries in Hubbard County through the collective implementation of education, engineering, enforcement, and emergency medical and trauma services.”

If you would like to become involved in the TZD coalition, call Raeann Mayer at 255-4833.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561