Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death and disability for teens.

So, helping teens learn ways to prevent vehicle crashes and to be responsible drivers has been an area of emphasis for those whose roles focus on public safety.

In an effort to provide some educational opportunities related to safe driving and making responsible choices, Redwood Valley High School, in conjunction with the Lyon/Redwood Safe Roads Coalition, recently presented a program that allowed students to see the dangers of everything from not wearing a seat belt to driving under the influence.

Representatives from the Redwood Falls Police Department, the Redwood County Sheriff’s Department, North Ambulance Service, Redwood County Health and Human Services and other public safety programs set up various stations in the Redwood Area Community Center for students in Grades 9-12. 

Those students were given the opportunity to see a rollover simulator, to experience the simulation of driving under the influence and to learn about the dangers of drug use, including opioids and vaping.

According to Lauren Mellenthin of Southwest Health and Human Services, who serves as the safe roads coalition coordinator, the intent is to help students implement safe practices when they are behind the wheel.

Many of the students who attended the event have already gotten their driver’s license, while others are going to have that opportunity soon, but those who work with the safe roads coalition believe providing information while it is still early in the life of these drivers can make a difference.

“We just want them to think about what they are doing and why they are doing it,” said Mellenthin.

The new hands-free law was also a point of emphasis for students.

According to Denise Kerkhoff of the Redwood County attorney’s office, many of the students were surprised to know that it is against the law for them to use their phones even when they are stopped at a stop sign or traffic light. Others learned that it is also against the law to use their devices when they are driving farm equipment.

“Getting this information to them while they are still young can help to form good habits,” Mellenthin said, adding it is important to get the message across to them that one bad choice can impact them for the rest of their lives.

Students heard the message loud and clear that when they are in a vehicle and are behind the wheel their only task is driving and to eliminate distractions as much as is possible as well as to not make decisions that could impair their ability to drive safely.

The Redwood Safe Roads Coalition is funded through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Its mission is to educate the public so that its goal of zero deaths on Minnesota’s roadways will be accomplished.

To learn more about the coalition and its public awareness programs, contact Mellenthin at (507) 537-6713.