Last summer, I witnessed a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle. I knew it was going to happen, but there was nothing I could do as it all happened in an instant. The driver immediately jumped out of his car and started yelling that he wasn’t on his cell phone. He repeated this over and over.
The driver wasn’t on his cell phone, but I did know (as the sole witness) that he was looking away, distracted nonetheless. Cops were called, the pedestrian was taken away by ambulance, there were a few mentions on the local news, and that was all; the rest of the story sort of faded away. Sadly, this is just one of the many distracted driving accidents in Minnesota.
I’ve had friends riding bicycle struck by cars and relatives involved in a few fender benders all because of distracted drivers. While all of these preventable accidents are taking place in Minnesota (all over the state), they are no different throughout the U.S.
The conversations are the same, as are the frustrations. Some lawmakers push for stricter laws while others think there’s too much enforcement. While Minnesota is considerably safer than other states, distracted driving continues to be one of the biggest problems on the road.
Are We Really As Good of Drivers As “They” Say?
This spring, Twin Cities drivers were ranked as some of the best in the country. Before we start patting ourselves on the back, every driver in Minnesota knows that we don’t always make the best choices, and I’m not just talking about braving the roads during a blizzard.
Maybe we Minnesotans truly are more polite and give fellow motorists a little more room when merging, but I’ve seen how drivers act behind the wheel.
Long before smartphones existed, I used to see drivers scarfing down Big Macs, changing clothes, applying makeup, and reading a book. I even saw one guy dribbling a basketball, all while keeping up with the speed limit on I-494. Now drivers are still doing all of these things but with a cell phone in their hand or tucked beneath an ear and a craned neck.
Even worse, commercial truck drivers who have been traveling from three states away are in a hurry to drop off their cargo, trying to navigate metro gridlock, and are talking on their cell phones or trying to find directions.
Minnesota’s Distracted Driving Laws
If it weren’t for some of our safety initiatives, Minnesota drivers wouldn’t be getting any accolades. Every driver has complained about some of the driving laws (particularly distracted driving laws) in Minnesota at one point or another. One friend complained to me about getting a distracted driving ticket while looking at his phone at a stop light.
While it may seem a bit excessive to some, it’s the law, and technically, you’re not paying attention to the vehicles around you or the traffic lights.
It’s estimated that one in four accidents, and at least 70 deaths, are due to distracted drivers. These accidents are still occurring despite the ban on texting and driving (MN has yet to ban all handheld devices). Was this law enacted and strongly enforced just to annoy and inconvenience you? No. Even though it may seem like it, the main goal is to reduce roadway deaths.
Remarkably, states like Rhode Island have been able to reduce roadway fatalities by about 30 percent due to some of their safety initiatives. Surely, we as “good Minnesota drivers,” can do the same.
If you saw this sign, would you see it?
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