ST. PAUL –The tragedy of Joe Tikalsky’s death from a distracted driver in 2015 stretches beyond family and friends. He was a school bus driver from New Prague, and the generations of kids who rode his bus are now left with only memories of how he touched their lives.
Law enforcement agencies across Minnesota will be conducting extra distracted driving enforcement April 10 – 23 to help prevent more senseless deaths like Tikalsky’s. As distracted driving incidents and citations continue to increase, Minnesota law enforcement is extending the extra enforcement period to two weeks to specifically focus on this deadly behavior.
For 17-year-old Sylvie Tikalsky and her family, her grandfather’s death is a call-to-action to get Minnesotans to realize that driving requires your full attention. “I’m living my life without my grandpa, and it’s not right when I think about what happened,” said Tikalsky. “I miss him so much, and it’s really hard to deal with every day. That’s why my family and I will do what we can to stop distracted driving.”
Sylvie and the Tikalsky family will be handing out 500 CELLslips to high school drivers and others with a message: “Hands on the Wheel, Eyes on the Road: In memory of Joe Tikalsky 10-28-15.” The goal is for drivers to place their phones inside the CELLslip, which blocks the cell phone signal.
Words in Honor of Joe
From those who rode Tikalsky’s bus come special memories —
• “As a kindergartener I ran to the bus every day to get the seat right behind Joe! I wanted to hear his jokes and stories and enjoy his warmth and friendship. Joe always made you feel like you were the most important person to him.”
• “I remember when I would get on the bus and Joe would call me sweetheart because my name is Emma and ‘that always reminds me of my wife’ he would always say.”
• “I remember when Joe would bring all the kids on bus #30 apples he picked from his apple tree. Joe was my most favorite bus driver.”
Extra Enforcement and Awareness during Campaign
Deputies, police officers and troopers from more than 300 agencies participate in the extra distracted driving enforcement campaign coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS). They use overtime funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to keep Minnesotans safe from the dangers of distraction.
“I wish I could say distracted driving may be a big problem in the rest of the country but not in Minnesota. I can’t say that because of stories like Joe and the dozens of lives that are lost each year from drivers who aren’t paying attention,” said Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director. “We live such hectic lives with appointments, activities and stress from job, school and family demands. Because of all the pressures, the right choice behind the wheel isn’t always the easiest choice, but it’s a life-saving choice. Please pay attention.”
Disturbing Distraction Numbers
Minnesotans need to commit to keeping their eyes on the road to reduce distractions and the heartache that can result:
- Texting and driving citations continue to climb statewide.
- 2012 — 1,707
- 2013 — 2,177
- 2014 — 3,498
- 2015 — 4,115
- 2016 — 5,988
- In 2015, distracted driving contributed to 7,666 injuries and 74 deaths.
- When a crash occurs in Minnesota, the driver behavior that law enforcement agencies cite most often as a contributing factor is attention or distraction.
Minnesota’s “No Texting” Law
In Minnesota, it is illegal for drivers to read, compose or send texts and emails, and access the web while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic. This includes sitting at a stoplight or stop sign or stopped in traffic. It also is illegal for drivers with a permit or provisional driver’s license to use a cell phone while driving, except for emergencies to call 911.
Under Minnesota law, drivers face a $50 fine, plus court fees, for a first offense. They’ll pay an additional $225 fine (for a total of $275), plus court fees, for second and subsequent violations of the texting-while-driving law.
Make the Safe Choice
- 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
- Law enforcement statewide arrested 2,407 drivers for DWI during the holiday extra DWI enforcement campaign. That’s compared with 2,502 arrests during the 2015 holiday period campaign.
- Sheriff’s deputies, police officers and troopers from more than 300 law enforcement agencies issued 4,351 seat belt citations and 166 child seat citations Oct. 14 – 30.
- Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2015 is a summary of traffic crashes derived from law enforcement reports and describes how, why and where crashes occurred and who was involved.