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Kids sometimes know best

The kids in the kindergarten class were invited to draw anything they wanted while their teacher walked around the classroom to observe the process. She stopped to watch Vanessa. "What are you drawing Vanessa?" Vanessa looked up and said, "I'm drawing God." "But nobody knows what God looks like," said the teacher. Vanessa had an answer. "Well they will in a few minutes."

Do kids know best? A recent tragedy suggests that maybe they do. We read that North Dakota Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenejem, age 59, died in a car accident in Alaska. Three others were in the car -- his son Robert Stenejem Jr., 34, his grandson Daniel Stenejem, 11 and Keith Johnson, 34. None of the three adults was wearing a seatbelt, but 11 year-old Daniel was buckled in.

The three adults were all thrown from the car. The Senator died, although a pending autopsy will show the exact cause of his death. Johnson was hospitalized in critical condition, Stenejem Jr., was hospitalized with broken bones, mouth injuries, bruises and abrasions all over his body. Eleven year-old Daniel was treated and released.

As a state senator, Bob Stenejem opposed proposals to make North Dakota's seatbelt law a primary enforceable law and it is reported he personally disliked wearing a seatbelt. A leader was lost. But the kid knew best.

When seatbelts first became mandatory in Minnesota I remember some who opposed the law as interfering with their "personal liberties." One justified his opposition on the basis that he worried about his car stalling on a railroad track with the train coming and he wouldn't be able to get unhooked in time to escape.

Seatbelts save lives and many parents and grandparents use them only because the kids remind them and insist on it. Sixty-three percent of people killed in car accidents were not wearing seatbelts. It is estimated that 9,500 lives and another 132,000 injuries could be saved each year if we all wore seatbelts. Who pays when we don't? Society pays 85 percent of the cost of these unnecessary injuries in higher taxes, higher health care costs and higher insurance premiums.

The irony of the Stenejem death was topped earlier this month by the story of a motorcyclist who, riding without a helmet in a protest against helmet laws, had an accident and died of a head injury. One possible epitaph for his tombstone might be, "I Did it My Way."

What do kids know? They ride past here on their bikes every day wearing helmets. They warn us not to do things we already know are stupid. They know more about cell phones, computers and dinosaurs then most of the rest of us. And 11 year-old Daniel Stenejem knew enough to buckle up, but there's one thing he doesn't know yet, bless him.

He doesn't know what God looks like.