ST. PAUL – For 19-year-old Phillip LaVallee, running countless miles over Minnesota roads helped make him one of the state’s top high school distance runners and a talented college athlete. The miles, the training and his life came to an abrupt end as he was running along a Wright County road in August 2013. A distracted driver went over the center line, across oncoming traffic and onto the far shoulder, and struck and killed LaVallee.
In a matter of seconds, a driver’s choice to take their eyes off the road can have fatal consequences.
More than 300 law enforcement agencies statewide will be conducting extra distracted driving enforcement April 9 – 22 to protect Minnesotans from those deadly decisions. The effort is coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS).
Phillip’s Family Takes Action
For LaVallee’s family, Phillip’s death created “Just Drive,” a call-to-action for Minnesotans to pay attention behind the wheel.
“Phillip's death was horrific but completely preventable. The pain of his absence is always present in our lives, and our family is forever incomplete,” said Greg LaVallee, Phillip’s father. “We ask Minnesotans to please take to heart how selfish it is to drive distracted. Phillip is forever running in our hearts, but all we have is memories. Being an attentive driver is a simple choice and will save lives.”
Extra Enforcement and Awareness during Campaign
Sheriff’s deputies, police officers and state troopers will participate in the extra distracted driving enforcement campaign. Law enforcement uses overtime funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and distributed by DPS-OTS, to keep Minnesotans safe from the dangers of distraction.
“Enough is enough,” said Mike Hanson, Office of Traffic Safety director. “We are such a plugged-in, always-on society that focusing only on the road while driving takes effort. But trying to multitask behind the wheel takes even more effort. If you’re trying to do two things - like drive and text, or stream or post - you’re not focused on driving. Those decisions can have severe consequences, like the death of Phillip LaVallee. Please pay attention, and speak up if you’re with a driver who’s distracted.”
Distracted Driving is Dangerous Driving
Texting citations climbed nearly 23 percent from 2016 to 2017.
Distracted driving contributes to one in five crashes in Minnesota.
Distracted driving contributes to an average of 59 deaths and 223 serious injuries a year (2012 – 2016).
Campaign History (2015 – 2017)
During the 2017 distracted driving extra enforcement campaign, law enforcement cited 1,017 people for texting and driving. This was a two-week campaign compared to one-week campaigns in previous years.
During the 2016 campaign, 972 people were cited for texting and driving.
During the 2015 campaign, 909 people were cited for texting and driving.
Distracted Driving Consequences
Minnesota’s “No Texting” law makes it illegal for drivers to read, send texts and emails, and access the web while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic. That includes sitting at a stoplight or stop sign.
If you injure or kill someone because of texting and driving, you can face a felony charge of criminal vehicular operation or homicide.
Do Your Part and Join Minnesotans Driving Distracted-Free
Cell phones — Put the phone down, turn it off or place it out of reach.
Music and other controls — Pre-program radio stations and arrange music in an easy-to-access spot. Adjust mirrors and ventilation before traveling.
Navigation — Map out the destination and enter the GPS route in advance.
Eating and drinking — Avoid messy foods and secure drinks.
Children — Teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle and model proper driving behavior.
Passengers — Speak up to stop drivers from distracted driving behavior and offer to help with anything that takes the driver’s attention off the road.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
DPS comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.
About the Office of Traffic Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) designs, implements and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. DPS-OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program.
DPS-OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) traffic safety program. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes – education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical and trauma response.
Recent DPS-OTS Activity and Statistics