Inaugural Traffic Safety Day coming to the Mall of America

Guests at the Mall of America this Saturday can sit in the driver’s seat of a mock vehicle and slide down a short rail track — a ride that will deliver a jolt when it comes to an abrupt stop at the end.

“You’ll feel the force permeate through your body,” promised Scot Edgeworth, who’s bringing the “Seat Belt Convincer” to the inaugural Traffic Safety Day at the Bloomington mall to show people that wearing a seatbelt “is a great idea,” not to mention required by law.

Edgeworth, a spokesman for Minnesota TZD (Toward Zero Deaths), one of the organizations putting on Saturday’s event, said the impact of the Seat Belt Convincer simulates the force at play even in a low-speed crash and is designed to show how wearing a seat belt can make the difference between life and death.

“There is no rewind button. There are no do-overs,” Edgeworth said, noting that 414 people lost their lives on Minnesota roads last year. “We need people to realize driving is serious.”

TZD often holds conferences and workshops throughout the state for law enforcement, engineers and first responders to help reduce crashes resulting in serious injury or death. For its 20th anniversary, the organization — an arm of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety — is going public in a big way with a day of exhibits, simulators and workshops at the state’s largest mall to deliver messages about traffic safety.

“We are trying to find new ways to meet our audience,” said TZD program coordinator Kristine Hernandez. “They really need to get those messages.”

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, traffic safety messages will be displayed on a giant screen in the mall’s rotunda. Experts will deliver five-minute talks on myriad subjects ranging from impaired driving when using cannabis to navigating roundabouts and J-Turns to teen and motorcycle safety. The idea is that anybody can stop for a few minutes to learn, said Alan Ainsworth with the local chapter of AARP, another event sponsor.

“If they can get one new idea or one new concept about road safety, that’s important for all of us,” he said.

Everything is free, including a CarFit demonstration put on by AARP. The session shows how to set mirrors to minimize blind spots, and how to properly adjust the driver’s seat so you’re at least 10 inches behind the steering wheel if the airbag goes off and at least 3 inches above the steering wheel to have a clear view of the road, Ainsworth said.

“Most people don’t know that,” he said.

For those with 90 minutes to spare, AARP will offer “We Need to Talk” at 11 a.m., a seminar offering tips on how to broach the difficult topic of assessing the driving skill level of older drivers in their family, and when and how to limit or stop them from driving. At 1 p.m., a different seminar will cover common technology installed on newer cars and how to use it.

TZD has held smaller similar events like this in Rochester and Mankato in the past, but Edgeworth hopes Traffic Safety Day becomes an annual event.

Said Edgeworth: “What better way to get to the community and interact in a positive way? We are looking to have a great day.”

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