Editorial: Park your cellphoneType “TXT U L8R.” Hit “send.” Then park the cellphone.
Type “TXT U L8R.” Hit “send.” Then park the cellphone.
Better yet, shut it off.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety, working with local law enforcement and the State Patrol, will beef patrols Thursday specifically targeting those individuals who text, email or access the web while driving. The tickets and warnings officers issue will anchor the week’s statewide distracted driving education campaign.
In case you didn’t know, it’s illegal in Minnesota for drivers to read, compose or send a electronic message at anytime. This includes when a vehicle is stuck in traffic or sitting at a red light. If the car is running and you’re behind the wheel, the law applies to you.
Unfortunately, more and more motorists have turned the daily commute into an extension of the workday. They text. They call. They email. They surf the Internet.
Don’t believe it? We challenge you to look closely at motorists every time you encounter a four-way stop Thursday in Red Wing. If there are motorists at all four corners, the odds are that someone — or maybe everyone — will be concentrating on something other than the roadway.
The truth is that the ubiquitous cellphone that changed our lives has created habits that are claiming lives. Since Minnesota enacted the no-texting law in August 2008, officials have attributed 208 deaths and nearly 26,000 injuries to these distracted drivers.
Driver distraction currently contributes to one-quarter of all Minnesota vehicle crashes annually, according to the Department of Public Safety. Some national studies indicate that distracted drivers cause up to 80 percent of accidents. Compare that to the statistic of 30 percent for drunken drivers and you’ll get a sense of how dangerous traveling our streets has become.
Distractions aren’t limited to cellphones, of course. Drivers fiddle with music controls. (Some of them search for tunes on their smartphones or MP3 players rather than the radio or CD player). People eat and drink while driving. They contend with crying toddlers and squabbling teens. Some drivers shave or apply makeup.
When you’re distracted, you react more slowly. And when texting, you take your eyes off the road for up to 4.6 out of every 6 seconds, state safety officials report. That’s equivalent to traveling the length of a football field at 55 mph hours without looking up.
Make Thursday the first day of safer driving habits.