"I’m hopeful that all this work we’ve done since we lost my mom will contribute to less lives lost due to distracted driving."

Channeling grief into change in Minnesota

Lucille-Vogt-flyer.jpgLois’s story of advocacy comes together in fragments. On the morning of September 15, 2010 Lois Roers received a phone call that her mother, Lucille Vogt, 77, had been involved in a car accident near Parkers Prairie, Minnesota. 

“When I received the call, my initial thought was that my mom had been involved in a fender bender, nothing serious,” said Lois. “But when I arrived to the ER and was given her personal items, I started to get very scared.”

The accident occurred when a 19-year-old teenager crossed the centerline and struck Lucille’s vehicle head-on. Emergency response teams had to pry Lucille from the wreckage using Jaws of Life rescue tools. Her injuries were extensive; she was suffering from several broken and crushed bones, internal injuries and multiple contusions. Both drivers were in critical condition.

Lois and her family sat in the hospital for hours, waiting for updates and mulling over one essential question: how did this happen? 

During the investigation of the accident, authorities discovered that the teenage driver had sent and received 15 text messages that morning—one text message being sent just four minutes before dispatch received the first 911 call about the crash. 

It’s a story unfolding across the country—in the back of speeding ambulances, on operating tables and in smoldering wrecks along the side of the highway. Distracted driving is believed to be among the leading factors in fatal collisions. 

Lucille later died from her injuries. Now, a cross stands at the crash site as a sad reminder of the senseless cost of distracted driving. 

With this tragedy came a new chapter of Lois’s life. An inspiring fragment to her story—her role as an advocate against distracted driving.

In an effort to influence policy makers and educate them on the dangers of distracted driving, Lois immediately began writing legislators urging them to vote for the hands-free law in the state of Minnesota. 

“This law has the potential to reduce serious injury and death due to auto accidents,” explained Lois. “I realize there are other types of distracted driving but we have an opportunity here to make a huge impact on so many lives. This is the first step in doing that.” 

Lois’s efforts finally paid off on August 1, 2019, when Minnesota officially became a hands-free state. A huge victory for Lois—and drivers across the state, as they take a collective step towards changing a culture of distracted driving among Minnesotans. “I applaud the lawmakers who voted for this,” Lois said, “I am so happy it was passed in Minnesota.”

Her advocacy doesn’t stop there, though. Lois and her employer, Zimny Insurance Agency, sponsor a local texting and driving event geared towards new drivers. Simulating the dangers of texting while driving, teens take a spin in a go-cart while sending and receiving text messages. This safe, controlled environment gives teens a first-hand experience of the effects of distracted driving. “I’m thankful to be able to participate in such an impactful event,” Lois said. 

In addition to the work she does with Zimny Insurance, Lois is also a member of the Douglas County Safe Communities Coalition. The mission of the coalition is to decrease traffic related injuries and fatalities. “We provide a lot of material related to all sorts of driving hazards such as speeding, impairment, seat belt usage and public law changes,” said Lois. “It’s amazing the ideas and contributions that come from this coalition. I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Moving forward from this senseless tragedy has been difficult, but Lois found a way to channel her grief into change.  “I miss my mom so much—her witty sense of humor, playing card games, our weekly lunches,” said Lois, “but I’m hopeful that all this work we’ve done since we lost her will contribute to less lives lost due to distracted driving. I thank everyone who has worked hard to change our laws and promote safe driving.” 

Come together and take the pledge to stop distracted driving.

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