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Drive It Foward gives drivers a break

Wabasha County Deputy Erik Rollie shows a Drive It Forward card Sheriff Rodney Bartsh created. Rollie has handed out five of them in the last week to motorists he stopped for minor offenses and issued a warning, not a ticket. And he gave them a card.

WABASHA — Wabasha County Deputy Erik Rollie stopped a 19-year-old for speeding last week as the teen was heading back to college.

Rollie decided the teen "needed a break" so he gave him only a warning, but then he surprised the driver by also handing him an invitation to Drive It Forward. Mirroring the "pay it forward" idea, it's for those who have been stopped for a minor traffic violation. They're invited to use the break of not getting a ticket to do something nice for someone else.

Some ways are to drive better, stay within the speed limit, don't use their cell phone and never give in to road rage. Or they can help out at home, donate food or volunteer. Or they can help police by reporting suspicious activity, welfare fraud or crime.

The teen "thought it was a good idea," Rollie said.

The card, which debuted last week, is the brainchild of Wabasha County Sheriff Rodney Bartsh. He's not quite sure yet whether it's going to fly or crash.


"I have some weird ideas sometimes," he said. "I don't want to quit thinking."

He said he was thinking about the image of law enforcement when the idea came to him.

"I thought of the concept, what can we do to improve on a good image, let people know we are out to make a difference?" he said. "I want something that was a little bit friendlier."

His deputies all have the discretion to give warnings instead of tickets, so he came up with the Drive It Forward card. Bartsh has no illusions that it's going to be a world-changing card. But maybe it will make the driver, who doesn't get a ticket, a bit happier, and maybe the driver will be more conscious about speeding or going through stop signs, he said.

"It might give them a few moments to think about their lives," he said.

"I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow," he said. "I think we have to think differently if we want to make a positive change in the world."

Rodney Bartsh

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