A southern Minnesota woman from Dodge Center was one of 10 individuals and organizations honored by the state departments of health, public safety, and transportation for improving traffic safety under Minnesota's Toward Zero Deaths program. The award was announced at the statewide TZD conference earlier this week in Mankato.

Emily Steffens was honored with a Special Award of Recognition for writing a weekly newspaper column called “It’s My Life: Living with Severe Traumatic Brain Injury.”

Steffens was her high school class valedictorian and was seriously injured in a car crash one week after graduating. She and three of her friends were traveling to the Twin Cities to register for college classes when an RV pulled in front of the car where she was a passenger in the back seat. The crash threw her into the front seat because she wasn't wearing her seatbelt causing her to strike the dashboard.

As a result of the accident, Steffens was in a coma for nearly three months. Steffens who is now paralyzed on her right side and is partially blind in both eyes. She also suffers from significant memory issues caused by the accident.

Two years ago, Steffens began to share her life and its challenges through the newspaper column. Because of her memory issues, she and her father sit down and discuss what messages to convey. Steffens dictates as her father writes it down. When she is done, she types it on the computer and then submits it.

She uses the column to educate the community on the importance of seat belt use. Her columns often focus on how her life is forever changed because of not wearing a seat belt. The column is her way of trying to change behavior so another family doesn’t have to go through what she went through.

See a full list of award recipients, at www.minnesotatzd.org.

Southeast Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths program brings area law enforcement, public health educators, engineers and emergency medical and trauma services together to reduce the number of traffic fatalities and severe injuries to zero in southeast Minnesota. The 11-county area encompasses Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha and Winona counties.

Source of information: MNDOT Press Release

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