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Texting While Driving: Story of teen's fatal crash impacts BHS seniors

Matt Logan holds up his deceased daughter’s mobile phone that was recovered from the traffic accident were she died texting in September of 2012. Logan talked to the senior class Friday at an event sponsored by the Crow Wing County Passenger Safety Coalition in advance of high school prom this Saturday, April 24. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls Video and Gallery2 / 3
Brainerd High School (BHS) senior Lindsey Wagner peddles a bike Friday with goggles that simulate impaired driving in the BHS Cafeteria. The senior class took part in an event sponsored by the Crow Wing County Passenger Safety Coalition and BHS to promote good decisions while participating in their high school prom scheduled Saturday, April 24. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls Video and Gallery3 / 3

Matt Logan, who has gone through a parent's worst nightmare, shared his story with the Brainerd High School (BHS) Class of 2015 Friday hoping it would stop another tragedy from happening.

Logan, who describes himself as an average father who was a woodworker by trade, said he is not a professional speaker, but he has spoken to students across the state to educate them about the dangers of texting and driving.

His story was powerful as he told the seniors, who filled the cafeteria at BHS, of how his daughter, Deej Logan, was killed on the first day of school of her senior year on Sept. 4, 2012. His daughter rear ended a school bus that was stopped, while she was composing a text message to a friend.

Logan's story was the main part of an event sponsored by the Crow Wing County Passenger Safety Coalition and BHS. An event geared for the senior class is normally held the day before prom to remind seniors to make healthy, good decisions, such as not drinking and driving, while they enjoy one of the best days of their high school career - prom. This year's event was focused on the dangers of texting and driving.

BHS Principal Andrea Rusk told the seniors she wants them to have a fun time at prom, but she also wants them to make good decisions. She asked the seniors to dress appropriately, to keep the dance "classy" and to not disrupt her sleep with a bad decision.

Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted said prom is a tough night for law enforcement. He said they want seniors to have fun, but if a student makes a bad decision, law enforcement will respond.

Assistant Crow Wing County Attorney Illissa Ramm told students she hopes she never has to encounter any of them in court. Ramm explained to students the harsh realities of the penalties for drinking and driving, distracted driving or causing a crash where someone gets hurt or is killed. She said people who are charged may do jail time and pay fines and the more offenses a person has, the stiffer the penalties.

"This is not the way you want to start your young adult life," Ramm said. "Don't do it. It's not worth it. If you do it you will end up in court."

Matt Logan briefly described his life to students before he talked about his daughter's death. He wanted the seniors to see that his family is just like their families, just the average family doing normal day-to-day activities.

Logan said on his daughter's first day of school in 2012 she, like many teens, was busy planning what to wear, how to do her hair and excited to see her old friends and make new friends. Logan's daughter, who attended Byron High School, even had her prom dress already picked out because she wanted the perfect dress.

Logan said he talked to his daughter before the crash. She told him she was picking up her sister and she explained she had some troubles at school that day. Those troubles are what his daughter was texting to a friend at the time of the crash. She never had time to even send the text.

Logan said Deej was the most level headed teen he knew and she left an impression on everyone she met.

"She was against texting and driving and she was vocal about it," said Logan. "She'd take other people's phones away who were driving.

"For Deej, she was distracted long enough at the wrong time. ... My daughter made a choice."

Logan said one out of four crashes in Minnesota are from drivers who are distracted. In 2012, there were 378 people who lost their life in a crash and 25 percent of them died because of distracted driving.

Logan told the students, "It takes just one time" to get into a tragic crash. Logan asked the students to help change the world's culture on texting and driving and to stop it.

"Think about the decisions you will make. ... My daughter can't change the world now, will you do it for her," Logan said.

After the event, senior Tedi Ramberg said Logan's story was real and his daughter was the same age as they are. She said he drew a good picture of his daughter's life, which was similar to their senior life. Ramberg said seeing the photos of Logan's daughter after the crash was impactful and showed the tragic realities of the consequences of texting and driving.

Remberg said today a lot of people text and drive. She said she puts her phone on "do not disturb" and places it in the glove compartment so she is not tempted to look at it.

Seniors Lindsey Wagner and Nick Tietz, who both took part in a simulation event of driving a pedal car while texting and driving, both agreed Logan's story was impactful to students.

"I thought his story was amazing," Wagner said. "He showed us that we are not invisible.

Wagner said Logan's story showed her that anyone can make a mistake and it can cost them. Wagner said her and her friends always put their phones away when they are driving.

Tietz said the story of his daughter's death was a real eye-opener on why people can't text and drive or drink and drive. Tietz said youth his age don't always think, and he hopes Logan's story will help them make good decisions. Tietz said a student was telling him one day that he drove drunk and thought it was funny. He said it's not.

Tietz said stopping people from texting and driving will be tough, but said having speakers like Logan speak to people often is a great reminder and will help.

Exsted said Logan's story had an impact on students. He was proud how respectful the students were when they were listening to him, as the students were silent the whole time.

Brainerd Police Chief Corky McQuiston said Logan's story sent a powerful message to the students, one they're able to relate to as they are the same age as Logan's daughter was. He said the adults present also can relate as they have children.

McQuiston agreed with Logan that texting and driving is a cultural issue and will take people awhile to change their habits and to stop it. The chief compared it to smoking and how long it took society to where the smoking bans were in place.

"Look how long that took people to get used to," McQuiston said. "The same thing will have to happen here."

McQuistion said when people are driving they cannot multitask by texting and driving. He said when people drive they already are multitasking by using their hands, feet, sight and sound.

Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl said Brainerd was fortunate to have Logan speak to the seniors. Dahl, who also has a son who is a senior, said all the students were silent during his presentation so he could tell they were really listening to Logan's message.

"Texting and driving is just not worth it," Dahl said.

Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Brad Bordwell agreed with the other law enforcement officers in that Logan's message was strong and got through to the students.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at jennifer.stockinger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl.

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