By Jen Bakken
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
This quote, by Margaret Mead, is taken from the Safe Communities of Wright County (SCWC) web site. Its mission is to reduce motor vehicle crashes and the associated injuries and fatalities through a community-based approach.
Beginning in 1997, the group, concerned about the high number of crashes in Wright County, received a three-year grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Initially involving only two schools in the county, the program is now a required part of driver’s education programs throughout the county, and taken before behind the wheel.
The teen-parent night is a 90-minute presentation for teen drivers and their parents.
There are crash survivors, law enforcement officers, and emergency rescue personnel who speak about teen driving from their own perspectives.
“The crash survivors have the most impact,” said Pat Hackman, SCWC executive director. “They help teens and parents understand the seriousness and the risk.”
One such crash survivor is Tim Lemmerman, a former resident of Delano.
About seven years ago, after reading a newspaper article about SCWC and what it was doing, he knew he had to get involved.
At age 17, Lemmerman caused a serious car crash while traveling south on Highway 25 near Foley.
When he passed slower-moving cars, he missed an intersection and collided with another car.
“I wasn’t paying attention like I should have been,” said Lemmerman. “Being 17, feeling 10 feet tall and bulletproof, I decided to pass the slow moving cars.”
Lemmerman and his passenger, a teen-aged friend, weren’t wearing seat belts and were ejected from the car. The family of four that Lemmerman collided with all died on impact, and his good friend later died at the hospital.
Though Lemmerman also had serious injuries, he survived. When he talks to teen drivers, he tells them how quickly things can happen while driving.
“You hear things on the news, but you don’t think those things can happen to you,” he said. “I know they can. The whole course of your life can change just from one small moment of not paying attention or making a bad choice while driving.”
With the hope that young drivers will learn from his mistake, he shares what it was like for him to go back to school, and wonder why he survived when it was his fault.
He talks about the way he was treated by people because he took their friend away.
When he discusses depression and how this event changed his life, he hopes no one will have to go through what he went through.
“I still deal with it to this day,” he admitted. “I especially hope that no one puts anyone through the hell that I put people through.”
Delano Community Education has added this presentation to the driver’s education class they offer.
This required component of the driver’s education class is beneficial to students and their parents.
“We think it’s important to convince parents of how important they are in helping their teens be safe drivers,” said Diane Johnson, Delano Community Education Director. “This is beneficial for all drivers and will hopefully prevent a tragedy.”
The teen-parent night will be offered Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 6:45 p.m. in the Delano Middle School auditorium.
Because this is the first time it is being offered in Delano, the teen-parent night is being made available, this one time, free of charge.
All parents who have a child who will be driving, or is driving, are encouraged to attend.
“It’s an investment in your kids’ future,” Hackman said. “Parents go to meetings for hockey, band, scouts, and other things, but driving is something your child will do every day for most of their lives, and getting a solid foundation for them is huge.”
According to SCWC, there is a one in four chance a teen will be involved in an accident within the first 12 months of getting their license.
This program has won awards from the Minnesota Department of Safety for the impact it has had on teen and adult drivers.
Last year, the group had 450 hours of volunteer time given to them by professionals. SCWC is unique to Wright County, and is the only program of its kind in the state of Minnesota.
For more information about the teen-parent night visit the Delano Community Education web site at www.delanocommunityed.com or call them at (763) 972-6878.
To learn more about SCWC, check out its web site at www.safecomm.org, call (763) 241-9888 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.