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Presentation Thursday at DWU focused on dangers of distracted driving

Dakota Wesleyan University students received a powerful message about distracted driving Thursday night. Students attending a presentation by Tim Weidenbach, director of the nonprofit Higher Power Sports, filled DWU's Sherman Center. During the p...

Tim Weidenbach speaks to Dakota Wesleyan University students about distracted driving Thursday night at the Sherman Center on the DWU campus. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)
Tim Weidenbach speaks to Dakota Wesleyan University students about distracted driving Thursday night at the Sherman Center on the DWU campus. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)

Dakota Wesleyan University students received a powerful message about distracted driving Thursday night.

Students attending a presentation by Tim Weidenbach, director of the nonprofit Higher Power Sports, filled DWU's Sherman Center. During the presentation, Weidenbach told the story of his cousin, Andrea Boeve, who was killed by a distracted driver on June 30, 2014.

On that day, Boeve was riding her bike along a road in Minnesota, when she was struck by a vehicle, driven by Christopher Weber, who was using his phone. The crash ultimately killed her, Weidenbach said.

"This accident, it was 100 percent preventable," Weidenbach said. "Her daughter will never know her mother outside of stories she's told from other people. It could have been avoided with one better choice."

Since that day, Weidenbach made it his mission to make a difference, and he has spoken to area businesses and schools, as well as more than 25 driver's education classes.

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In a speech with powerful statistics-like that when a person is driving from Parkston to Mitchell, they will see 20 cars on average, half of which have drivers distracted by their phones-it was obvious by students' reactions that Weidenbach's presentation made an impact.

During and following a video in which family and friends recall the day Boeve was killed, several attendees shed tears and shifted uncomfortably in their seats.

And, while he held students' attention, Weidenbach drove his point home: when a person drives distracted, it has the potential to impact dozens of people for the rest of their lives.

"In life, you have an opportunity to take a step back and look in your rearview mirror. What's going to be there?" Weidenbach said. "What if, when you were looking down at your phone, you hear a thud? ... Whatever you missed in those 4, 5, 10, 12, 25 seconds, you get no do-overs. The only chance you have to know what happened is to look in your rearview mirror."

Weidenbach told students it's also important to remember they are role models to younger children. When he presents to driver's education classes, Weidenbach said he challenges those kids to stand up to distracted drivers and tell them to stop, though it's not uncommon for the older sibling to silence the younger.

"If someone has enough guts to tell you to get off your phone, listen. It may save your life," Weidenbach said. "It may save someone else's life. It may save that person's life who told you to get off your phone. Or it may save the life of the mother of two young kids who were just riding their bike."

Boeve's parents and siblings attended the speech and also spoke to the students.

Her father, Bill, urged attendees to do everything in their power to not be the cause of a family's grief.

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"One thing I'd like to tell you guys, I hope your parents never get the call that we got," he said. "Don't allow your parents to get the call we got and don't be the reason that somebody else's parents are going to get that call."

Weidenbach's presentation to DWU student-athletes is part of the university's new leadership initiative for athletes. The initiative, based on a similar program at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire, brings intentional activities and messages coaches will begin instituting in day-to-day activities to teach athletes how to be leaders in academics, athletics, spiritual endeavors and service.

The program, in its first year, isn't a result of issues on campus, but rather was implemented as an avenue to help students achieve more when they leave DWU, according to DWU mens head basketball coach Matt Wilber.

"(College) is your test run in life," Wilber said. "You're always labeled as student-athletes, that's going to end one day. What are you going to do when you leave here? That's what we're trying to accomplish."

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