Teens get behind-the-wheel safety lessonWoodbury students were among those gathered Thursday to talk about keeping kids safe on the roads.
By: Nathan Hansen, Woodbury Bulletin
ROSEMOUNT – Woodbury students were among those gathered Thursday to talk about keeping kids safe on the roads.
The Metro Area Safe Communities Coalition held its fourth annual teen driving summit – comprising police officers, driving instructors and student leaders – at the Rosemount Community Center. The event is designed to give people who work with young drivers access to the tools they need to keep people safe in a world where portable distractions like cell phones are in nearly every driver’s pocket.
“A lot of people think teens are drinking and driving. That’s not the issue,” said Monica Jensen, community relations director for the Dakota County Attorney’s office. “It’s the speed. It’s the distraction. It’s the inexperience. Least of all, it’s the chemical impairment.”
During the event, visitors saw an award-winning public service announcement produced by Stillwater High School, tried their hand at the new Distracted Dodger game by the Intelligent Transportation System Institute at the University of Minnesota and tried – mostly unsuccessfully – to catch a ball while wearing Fatal Vision goggles that simulate the experience of being drunk.
A group of representatives from the Woodbury High School chapter of SADD said the morning sessions were useful. They were most interested in a video that had real-life accounts from people impacted by drunk- and distracted driving accidents.
“It really made an impact,” student Josh Vadnais said.
In other morning sessions, speakers gave a group of students, teachers and others some tools for getting younger teens prepared for the responsibility of driving, or tips on making more effective presentations.
The Metro Area Safe Communities Coalition is made up of representatives from Dakota County, Hennepin County Medical Center, Ramsey County, the Minnesota State Patrol and Washington County, among others. All of the participants were formerly recipients of safe communities grants who worked together to coordinate traffic safety messages throughout the Twin Cities.
“Just because you start out in Burnsville and end up in Blaine, it doesn’t mean you should pass nine different messages as you pass through those communities,” Jensen said.
As the groups lost their funding, they started looking for other ways to work together. The MASCC was born.
The group originally hoped to draw 100 to 120 people to the summit. Jensen expected more than 170 people to attend this year.
“We’re kind of a little panicked, but success to us, we didn’t really have a number as a volunteer group,” Jensen said. “We have people from all over the state that are interested.
“The people who come are amazed at all of the resources.”
Jensen wants to get the message across that driver’s education isn’t something that can wait until a teen is ready to get behind the wheel. It starts with parents modeling good behavior.
“The day you teach your child to drive is not when they get their permit. It’s kindergarten or before,” she said.
According to MASC, drivers ages 16 to 19 were involved in 11.3 percent of all 2010 traffic crashes despite making up just 5.8 percent of all drivers. Drivers in that age category were involved in 8.8 percent of all fatal crashes and 11.1 percent of injury crashes. Forty-one teens ages 15 to 19 were killed on Minnesota roads.