Mother travels to spread awareness about buckling upA Jamestown woman has reshaped her life to build awareness of seat belt use following the loss of her daughter in June 2011. Becca Olson, 16, died in a pickup accident in Mandan, N.D. A passenger in the vehicle, she was not wearing her seat belt when the crash happened. Her mother, JoAnne Olson, has championed the cause since then raising awareness to buckle up in the Dakotas.
By: By Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
A Jamestown woman has reshaped her life to build awareness of seat belt use following the loss of her daughter in June 2011.
Becca Olson, 16, died in a pickup accident in Mandan, N.D. A passenger in the vehicle, she was not wearing her seat belt when the crash happened. Her mother, JoAnne Olson, has championed the cause since then raising awareness to buckle up in the Dakotas.
“It’s a nightmare to relive your daughter’s death every day,” Olson said. “But on the flipside every day somebody tells me ‘you saved my life because I was in an accident today and buckled up and it was because of Becca.’”
The start of 2013 was the start of Olson’s “Buckling Up for Becca” campaign.
She plans to speak to high school students in Fargo later this year and eventually Jamestown students when a video collage of pictures of Becca is completed. She also plans to hit the public radio airwaves as well in 2013.
She has spoken primarily in Mandan and Bismarck in the past, but also talked to students in South Dakota at a conference at Mobridge in March.
Accompanying her to these events is a group of Becca’s friends, who talk to students as well.
“I cry my way through it every day but I’m so thankful for the girls in Mandan because they’re strong and they don’t want to go to another funeral,” Olson said of her presentations.
Olson brings statistics along with her from the North Dakota Department of Transportation. One of the most shocking ones for her is that an unbelted person dies in North Dakota on average every 4.7 days.
“No matter what city or what state I’ve been to, everyone has a Becca story,” Olson said.
Her ultimate goal now is to purchase a driving simulator for students to try as she travels, or for use in Jamestown — with a seat belt, of course.
She said simulators now will call a student’s cellphone and crash when they answer. Some also include a tire blowout, or a deer running across the road.
“If we’re going to get things to change the statistics we’re going to have to get kids to practice on a driving simulator,” she said.
For now she will continue to travel and spread her message, which is on shirts she gives to students, that reads “U R Loved” with the words “Belt Me” across a heart.
Olson was shocked at Becca’s death because she normally always wore a seat belt. She was shocked again when she started looking up the statistics.
After the accident, she couldn’t stand to stay in Mandan.
“The night of Becca’s accident I packed a suitcase in the house we shared and I never spent a night there, and I ended up here,” she said of moving back to Jamestown. She had lived in Mandan for 20 years.
Olson brings that emotion with her when she speaks to students, but approaches them with the message they are loved and that’s reason enough to buckle up.
She also gives the message that one funeral for somebody who didn’t buckle up is more than enough — especially when it’s your daughter.
“You don’t ever plan to bury your child,” she said.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at email@example.com