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Dnt txt n drv - Student/parent event focuses on distracted driving

Sara Moore of Brandon tried to maneuver her go-kart through traffic around a course, while texting with her mom, who was watching from nearby. The activity showed teens how texting distracted them from paying attention to what was happening on the roadway. (Photo by Tara Bitzan)1 / 2
Scott Johnston of North Ambulance talked openly with attendees of the Teen Distracted Driving event, giving them a step-by-step synopsis of what might happen if they are involved in a serious car crash. (Photo by Tara Bitzan)2 / 2

Twenty teenagers and their parents learned how to help make Minnesota roadways safer by attending the Teen Distracted Driving Event Monday evening.

The event is offered to teens ages 14 to 17 and their parents by the Douglas County Safe Communities Coalition, in partnership with Casey's Amusement Park and Partington, Zimny Insurance.

Attendees were able to experience the dangers associated with distracted driving in a safe, controlled environment. Teens each took a spin in a go-cart while exchanging text messages with their parents.

"Our goal is to increase the number of safe drivers on the road and for participants to see first-hand that distracted driving is dangerous and can have serious - even fatal - consequences," said Crystal Hoepner, coalition coordinator.

Along with the on-track driving experience, teens and parents attended stations where they learned about the responsibilities of driving, teen driving laws, risks and the impact a car crash could have on a teen's life forever.

The sessions were conducted by professionals from local law enforcement agencies, emergency medical services and public health. Loni Kjos of Alexandria also talked with attendees about the loss of her daughter, Kelsey, in a car accident.

"We want teens to leave knowing how one meaningless, senseless, text message could impact their life," said Hoepner. "One text or call while driving could wreck it all for them financially, socially, physically and legally, and ultimately leave their family and community to grieve for their life lost in a crash that more than likely could have been prevented."

This was the third such event held locally. To date, 54 teenagers have attended the program, along with their parents.

The event is a component of the coalition's comprehensive safe roads efforts and is linked to the state's core traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD). For more information, visit

Tara Bitzan

Tara Bitzan is editor of the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter. A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She and her husband, Dennis, and their children live near Alexandria.

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