Avoiding a tragedy; Click It or Ticket campaign kicks off in Austin
Published 10:49 am Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Dodge County Sheriff Scott Rose remembers the night he told his family friends their son had passed away in a car accident on Dec. 18, 2015.
“I was working at the office, there was an accident and I was listening to the radio traffic,” Rose recalled. “I got a call from an officer and he told me, ‘It’s Matt’s kid. It’s Logan. He’s dead.’”
Rose retold this story on Monday morning at Austin Mill Pond during the Click It or Ticket campaign kick off, which runs from May 23 to June 5. Several state troopers, county sheriff’s deputies, Gold Cross Ambulance staff, two Austin Fire Department trucks and Austin police officers were present and even Mayo 1 made an appearance.
Email newsletter signup
Rose recalled having to call Logan’s father, Dodge County Emergency Management Director Matt Maas, to tell him to stay at the Apache Mall in Rochester — he was going to tell them what happened in person.
“It was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Rose said.
Maas received the news later that night and had to pull his second son out from a basketball game and tell his daughter.
Maas said Logan knew better about wearing his seat belt and always wore his religiously and would even tell his father to put his on when he forgot, but added when people are with friends, their behavior is often altered.
Logan and three other people were driving on a gravel road and “trying to get air on a hill” when they rolled. Logan was thrown from the vehicle.
“It was a little before Christmas and we never expected to be giving permission for an autopsy, putting together a picture board for his funeral instead of his graduation,” Maas said. “It doesn’t get easier.”
Maas said it was hard watching other kids go to prom and get acceptance letters to college and that he was excited for them, but he was also missing his son.
“It’s nothing anyone should go through,” Maas said. “It’s as simple as buckling up. It can happen to you.”
The Click It or Ticket campaign will see law enforcement agencies watching for seat belt violations for drivers and passengers.
Minnesota State Patrol Public Information Officer Sgt. Troy Christianson said there were 91 motorists who lost their lives in 2015 due to being unbuckled and said unfortunately Logan is now a 2015 statistic.
“It’s necessary to save lives,” Christianson said. “There’s a chance for six times greater injury in an accident.”
He encouraged people to be the voice of reason in a vehicle and pay attention to the road.
Toward Zero Deaths Program Coordinator Kristine Hernandez said the state saw a high number of people dying in crashes in Minnesota when the program started in 2003, but it has seen progress since.
“We’ve reduced that by 37 percent and it’s all thanks to the people behind me,” Hernandez said, with uniformed officers standing behind her.
She added Minnesota has a 94 percent compliance rate for seat belts, but the six percent continues to be a factor in accidents.
“Half of the people dying in crashes are unbuckled,” Hernandez said. “There were 411 deaths last year. By 2020 we want that number to be 300 or fewer and 800 or fewer serious injuries.”
Austin Police Captain Dave McKichan agreed and said seat belt usage is a serious problem here in southern Minnesota.
“The challenges we face are we have two-lane roads, no shoulders and poor sight lines,” McKichan said.
He added if you’re not wearing your seat belt, you can be ejected, half ejected or thrown from the vehicle and the vehicle could land on you and crush you.
“Step one is buckle up. Step two is ticket the unbuckled,” McKichan said.