Albert Lea Girl's Death Prompts Driver Education Campaign

January 02, 2018 11:05 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- It became part of the investigation into an accident that killed an 8-year-old Albert Lea girl.

Now, it's the subject of an enforcement and education campaign.


"What I would like is for no parent have this be the reason they lose their child," Kelly Wassenberg said.

“18 months ago, a little girl in our community, Sophie Stultz, was riding her bicycle when she was hit by a motorist and she was killed in that crash,” Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag explained.

“And one of the contributing factors  towards the crash was the motorist's view was blocked from a handicapped permit hanging from his rearview mirror."

And that's against the law.

"I have never typed up a conviction, which is part of my job, for people getting a ticket for leaving them in their window so that was concerning to me," said Wassenberg, who works with Sophie’s mom at the Albert Lea Tribune.

She raised those concerns with law enforcement and law enforcement listened.

"We are going to be enforcing suspended objects primarily hanging from the rearview mirror," Freitag said.

“And I don't think people who drive around with them realize how much of their view is obscured," Wassenberg added.

An accident reconstruction expert from the state patrol looked at the car - and the handicapped permit - involved in the crash that killed Sophie Stultz.

"He was able to calculate how much of the view was obstructed based on so many feet in front of the car when Sophie would have been coming in front of the car and it was a significant portion of the view that was obstructed," Freitag said.

And that prompted a campaign aimed at motorists.

"Don't have anything hanging from your rearview mirror, including the Christmas tree scented things, some people have necklaces, the fuzzy dice, including a phone. Not only for their safety but the safety of others."

“That was always the main focus,” Wassenberg said. “How can we stop this from happening again."


Dan Conradt

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