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If you think you can safely text and drive, you’re wrong.

April 12, 2018

It’s easy to think that causing a crash while texting and driving is something other people do. Not you, though, right? You’re a good enough driver that it won’t make a difference if you glance down at your phone. Just for a moment. It’s important! What if you miss that text from your spouse? What if your friend posts on Facebook about where happy hour will be and you miss it? What if your boss emails you? No one else can successfully text and drive, but you can.

Photo: This is Phillip LaVallee. A distracted driver killed him while he was running along the side of the road in 2013. He was 19. When you drive, remember Phillip and put the phone away.

News flash: No, you can’t. Really.

Texting while driving doubles your risk of a crash or near-crash. And if you’re driving 55 miles per hour and you send a text, you have essentially just traveled the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed. In short, you can’t multitask behind the wheel. No one can.

This fact is brought home with heartbreaking clarity to an average of 59 families in Minnesota every year, whose loved one died because a driver made the selfish choice to drive distracted. Likewise, an average of 223 people per year live with serious injuries sustained at the hands of a distracted driver.

Remember, any distraction can be a problem if it leads you to look away and drift out of your lane, rear-end the car ahead of you or result in some other dangerous consequence. Ketchup spill on your lap from a messy cheeseburger? Dropped your sunglasses? Turning around to get after your kids in the backseat?  Actions like these can be a problem if you lose your focus on the road.

And if respect for the lives of others doesn’t motivate you to put your phone down while you’re behind the wheel, maybe legal consequences will. It’s illegal in the state of Minnesota for drivers to read or send texts and emails, as well as access the web, while the vehicle is in motion or part of traffic (that last part means even when you’re at a stop sign or stoplight).

And if you think you can do it without getting caught, think again: Minnesota’s law enforcement agencies – over 300 in total – are in the middle of a distracted driving extra enforcement campaign that lasts through April 22 (although they look for distracted drivers all year ‘round). In 2017 alone, 7,357 drivers were ticketed for violating the “no texting” law. They received a $50 fine plus court fees for a first offense; $275 plus court fees for a second offense – that’s assuming they didn’t injure or kill anyone. If that happens, a driver could face felony charges of criminal vehicular operation or homicide.

You probably don’t want to be a homicidal driver. A great way to avoid it
is to put down the phone.

Phillip LaVallee’s family is one of those who wish a driver had cared enough to avoid distractions. But Phillip was killed in 2013, at the age of 19, because a distracted driver went over the center line and onto the shoulder where he was running in Wright County. His father, Greg, really gets to the core of the issue: “We ask Minnesotans to please take to heart how selfish it is to drive distracted. Being an attentive driver is a simple choice and will save lives.”

So next time you get behind the wheel, remember Phillip and put the phone away.