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Woodbury Family Fights for ‘Tyler’s Law’

After their son died from carbon monoxide poisoning in December, Kelly and Jeff Lavers began pushing for a bill that would require driver’s education courses to address the subject.

Woodbury resident Tyler Lavers died on Dec. 2, 2010, from carbon monoxide poisoning.

His parents are now working to make sure no one else succumbs to the same fate.

Kelly and Jeff Lavers sat before a Minnesota House committee Wednesday to testify on behalf of “Tyler’s Law,” a bill that would require driver’s education teachers to talk about the dangers of carbon monoxide and require a related question on permit tests.

State Rep. Andrea Kieffer, a Republican from Woodbury, is the chief author of the legislation (HF650), which is being considered as part of the state’s omnibus transportation bill. It’s expected to go before the House for a vote on Monday.

In December, Tyler, 19, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, was installing a new speaker system on his car in the garage at the family’s cabin. He had to turn on the Pontiac Grand Prix to test it out. Even though he had the garage door open, the cold air and confined space exacerbated the effects of the gas, leaving him unconscious in a few minutes and dead within 15, Jeff told Woodbury Patch before the hearing.

The purpose of the bill, Jeff said, is “to make sure people understand the dangers of what I call the silent assassin.”

The couple has been speaking with driver’s education instructors and working with lawmakers to get the legislation passed, Kelly said. It’s the first time she has worked on behalf of a bill, and she said legislators have been responsive and helpful.

In researching carbon monoxide poisoning, Kelly said she learned that most young people don’t receive a lot of education about its dangers, and driver’s education teachers only talk about information that will be on the test, which is why it was so important to have that component of the bill included. She likened the question to parts of the test that ask young motorists about drinking and driving or bus safety.

“It’s never safe to warm up your car in your garage,” she said. “And the carbon monoxide can also seep into your house.”

The bill has garnered the support of Ramsey County’s chief medical examiner and Twin Cities police, fire and emergency departments, Kelly said.

“Our goal is really just to inform,” she said. “That’s the bottom line.”

During his testimony to the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee, Jeff talked about how carbon monoxide poisoning is “so dangerous yet so preventable.” No one spoke against the bill.

“Only now am I coming to grips with the fact that the only thing that could have kept Tyler alive was knowledge,” Jeff said.

Kelly sat with him, at times quietly dabbing tears from her eyes as her husband spoke about their son.

When Tyler—a Hill-Murray graduate—died, his friends made bracelets that said “empower” on them, said Kelly, who was wearing one Wednesday at the State Office Building, where several students from , Hill-Murray and sat in the audience.

“Tyler truly believed in empowering yourself,” Kelly said. “And when you educate yourself, you’re empowered.”

Kelly said she hopes the Legislature passes the bill and makes people more aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“That would be a great legacy for him,” she said.

Information on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (from Kelly Lavers)

  • It is never safe to idle a vehicle in a garage (warming it or working on it).
  • Warm up your vehicle in the driveway.
  • Cold temperatures prohibit CO gas from escaping the garage.
  • CO separates from the exhaust you can see and smell.
  • CO is invisible and odorless.
  • CO will seep into the attached house, sometimes taking hours to do so.
  • Kids "parking" backed into a snow bank is responsible for most accidental CO teen deaths.
  • Be aware of the symptoms of CO poisoning (headache, sudden tiredness).
  • It is currently not a requirement in Minnesota to report CO poisonings that result in hospital visits or deaths, so there are no accurate statistics. However, at least 20 Minnesotans die annually from CO poisoning. Most of these deaths are between December and February.
Ruth Ann Vikla March 17, 2011 at 02:43 PM
I am so sorry that the Lavers have lost their son! My prayers are with you! I agree that the dangers of carbon minoxide MUST be taught in drivers education classes. Our teenagers really do not understand the dangers of it. (Actually, I was not even aware that you should not leave a car running in the garage with the garage door open!!) My teenager, who has a permit, was going to start the car to warm it up, but wasn't even aware you needed to open the garage door. I hope this legislation gets passed. I am sorry it could not help Tyler, but my hopes would be that it could save someone else.
Judy Wilds Shimota March 17, 2011 at 04:49 PM
This legislation is so necessary to stop other senseless deaths. Students obviously need to be taught every aspect of safety. As always, the Lavers family continues to give and to put others first. They are so amazing....Please help them to help the world and please support this bill!
Jennifer Kust March 17, 2011 at 07:36 PM
This is information that must be shared with all people who may encounter a carbon monoxide potential situation. Thank you Kelly and Jeff for your dedication and strength in bringing this to everyone's attention.
Matt Kraft March 17, 2011 at 09:46 PM
Knowledge is Power, and thanks to the passing of this bill, many young adukts will have the knowledge necessary to make good choices regarding carbon monoxide and operating vehicles. Legislators.... Please pass this bill and help provide this knowledge to our young adults, especially in memory of Tyler! Matt Kraft
Mary Scundi March 18, 2011 at 12:05 AM
This is truly a necessary bill. The education is necessary so teenagers and young adults really understand the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and how quickly it can happen. It is crucial that it is learned along with all the other critical issues taught during the driver's education process. Kudos to the Lavers family for bringing the issue to the forefront and standing up for something so important at a time when they are suffering such a tragic loss. It is truly a tribute to Tyler!
Neil Krenz March 18, 2011 at 02:52 AM
This is an important bill to get passed. Even if you warm up your car in the garage, if there is no airflow to flush the CO out, it lurks in the garage and even seeps into your house. This makes complete sense, but before this incident, I thought that if you had the garage door open, that is all you needed to be safe. That's obviously not the case. There is a need to educate everyone about the effects CO has and the importance of getting your car out of the garage while warming it up or working on it while it's running. I am so sorry for the Lavers' loss of Tyler, but they are such a great family that they will make sure something good comes of this terrible tragedy. I hope they know they have a lot of support.
Susan Murphy March 18, 2011 at 12:30 PM
Thank you Kelly and Jeff Lavers for having the courage to help others even in your time of mourning. This is what it means to be good citizens. Seeing something that needs change and going through the proper channels, however slow and tedious, to enact change for the common good. You are heros!
lavers March 19, 2011 at 03:26 AM
Ruth Ann, Thank you so kindly for your comment and sympathy. The comments you made about your teens and yourself not knowing the danger of idling the car in an open garage is one we have heard from almost everyone we've spoken with. Tyler is not the first to succumb to CO poisoning in this manner. Several other families have come to us with their similar stories. It seems that its the first responders (police, fire, EMS) that know full well CO dangers in cold temperatures. This is not new information, it is just that the MN driver's manual has not caught up with what has been known for decades. Hopefully this bill will pass and require a question on the driver's exam so as the book will then be updated and therefore instructors will teach more on the subject. It is with much help and encouragement from a dear friend Sue Murphy that we are able to move forward after the loss of our wonderful son Tyler. And you said it perfectly; sorry this information could not help Tyler, but hopefully it could save someone else.
lavers March 19, 2011 at 03:41 AM
Sue, Thank YOU for initiating this process with Rep Keiffer, making the calls, keeping us on track, and honoring our Tyler with this meaningful and loving gesture. You are right when you say a change needs to be made. That became obvious within days of learning how many of us are less than fully informed. There is no reason any other family should have to suffer through the loss of a preventable accidental CO poisoning. We aim to EMPOWER with EDUCATION! We are happy to walk through this process with you. It is an honor.
Kelly Wenzel March 19, 2011 at 11:27 AM
Jeff and Kelly, Thank you for your time and efforts to get this EXTREMELY important information out to the public! Along with many others, I too thought it was okay to idle a vehicle as long as the garage door was opened. Why is it that such a tragic loss had to happen to have this brought to our attention? We've always felt very fortunate to know the Lavers family, and we think of you all every day.
Jim Thomas March 21, 2011 at 02:57 PM
Jeff & Kelly, The efforts you two accomplish in making the world a better place simply amaze me. Never thinking of yourselves, always of others. Thank you for making such a difference and living the definition of empowerment. You’re the best friends and best parents anyone could ever ask for.
Peggy Shubert March 22, 2011 at 03:59 PM
My 16-year old son just got his drivers license and my (soon-to-be) 15-year old son will be taking drivers education this summer. Jeff & Kelly are correct in that there is NO mention of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning in their drivers education training. I will be sharing this article and information with my sons this evening. This is so important for our children to know. My deepest sympathies to Jeff & Kelly for the loss of their son, but know their efforts will save many others. My thanks to the Lavers for bringing this issue to the forefront.
Bernie Meyer March 22, 2011 at 09:24 PM
Thank you Jeff and Kelly , and friends, for actively pursuing this legislative change. There are so many challenges we all face with raising a family, and hopefully by having this issue brought up by parents as well as in Driver's training it will reemphasize the importance of knowing the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning; how easily and quickly it can occur. Also it will be a good reminder to all of us, to think about when we are warming our cars or running them in our garages, for whatever reason. It may help remind us all too, of the importance of checking our furnaces and carbon detectors in our homes, ice houses etc. Thinking of you always! "Bernie "

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