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.