looking to prevent distracted driving


For years, law enforcement has dealt with the biggest problems that lead to driving fatalities. The primary focus has been on two areas – speeding and drunk driving. However, there is a new culprit that is putting drivers at risk – distracted driving. The primary focus on preventing distracted driving is to keep people off their cell phones while operating a motor vehicle, something that is easier said and done.
Wright County Sheriff Joe Hagerty has been working with Pat Hackman of the Safe Communities of Wright County program to educate and inform the public of the dangers of distracted driving. The annual saturations that the sheriff’s department does in terms of addressing speeding and drunk driving have started to include distracted driving. Hagerty said the first such saturation enforcement began last summer and he was surprised at the results.
“We did a saturation last summer that we’re going to do again this spring to bring some awareness to the problem,” Hagerty said. “We post a uniformed officer on a downtown street corner just a few feet off the boulevard watching an intersection. He’ll be looking right into the passenger compartment of the car. He couldn’t believe how many people were doing something on their phone.”
By Minnesota law, all juveniles under the age of 18 are prohibited from using a phone in any form while driving. Adults can use a phone to talk, but accessing the Internet or texting is illegal for anyone operating a motor vehicle. The issue that law enforcement faces is that, as a society, we’ve become more mobile and phones have become almost indispensable to many people, even when they’re driving.
“The problem is that people are addicted to their phones,” Hagerty said. “They do so much that their like a computer or a tablet in the palm of their hand. They use it for everything, so it’s hard to get some of them to put it down – even when they’re driving. Everybody has them and they’re so accessible. If they lose their phone, they’re totally lost.”