Distracted driving is a danger to everyone on the road

In an effort to make local roads safer, the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office and the Otter Tail County Safe Communities Coalition have announced that they have joined the “One Text or Call Could Wreck It All” campaign to stop distracted driving. Both organizations have pledged their support to help spread the message that distracted drivers are not only a danger to themselves, but everyone else on the road.

“We all know that talking on our cell phones, while driving is distracting, but that doesn’t stop most people from continuing to do it,” said Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Allen Mekash. “This effort is intended to educate our community about the dangers of cell phone use and other distractions while driving. We hope that once people see the statistics and realize the danger involved, they will change their driving habits to help protect themselves, their families, and others on the road.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 32,483 people died in distraction-affected crashes over the ten-year period from 2011 to 2020. NHTSA also states that in 2020 alone, there were 587 nonoccupants (pedestrians, cyclists, and others) killed in crashes involving a distracted driver.

Research shows that Millennials and Generation Z are the most distracted drivers, often using their cell phones to talk, text, and scroll through social media while behind the wheel. While anything that takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off the task of driving is a hazard, there is heightened concern about the risks of texting while driving because it combines all three types of distraction – visual, manual and cognitive.

The national distracted driving effort focuses on ways to change the behavior of drivers through legislation, enforcement, public awareness and education – the same activities that have curbed drunk driving and increased seat belt use.

“Every driver in Otter Tail County has a role in this effort,” said Allen Mekash. “However, we especially want to reach out to parents with teen drivers because we know that statistically, the under-20 age group had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes.”

Otter Tail County’s goal with this campaign is simple—save lives by getting drivers to remember that “One Text or Call Could Wreck It All.”

Local law enforcement will have extra distracted driving enforcement throughout the month of April.

For more information about distracted driving, please visit www.distraction.gov and follow Otter Tail County Safe Communities Coalition on Facebook.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Otter Tail County recognizes child abuse and neglect as serious problems affecting our communities. This month and throughout the year, the County works with local partners to promote programs that create strong and thriving families.

“Otter Tail County strives to support the children and families we serve and promote a safe and stable community for our kids,” shared Stephanie Olson, Supervisor of the Children and Families Unit. “Children are best protected from abuse when their community prioritizes their safety and intentionally takes steps to help.  Children depend on each of us to protect them and create safe environments for them to grow.”

In support of these efforts, the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners has proclaimed April 2023 as Child Abuse Prevention Month. Recognizing children are one of our most valuable resources, Otter Tail County will continue to support the social and emotional well-being of children and families in a safe, stable, and nurturing environment.

All families need help sometimes and asking for help shows strength. Connecting with others helps build a strong support system and is one of the ways we all can contribute to supporting families in our communities. Otter Tail County is available to guide caregivers to resources that best fit the needs of their families. 

Visit www.ottertailcounty.gov/department/human-services/ for more information and child abuse prevention resources.

Reporting Abuse and Neglect

Contact a Child Protection Social Worker by calling (218) 998-8150. After-hours reports can be made by calling a local law enforcement agency. Reports can be made anonymously unless the person is a mandated reporter.