Driving is too dangerous – drop your distractions
Vietnam War veteran Doug Quick, of Lakeville, says he felt safer in a war zone than he does now driving on Twin Cities-area freeways.
In a guest column in Sun Thisweek and the Dakota County Tribune newspapers, Quick wrote that on one day he avoided three head-on collisions because of distracted and unaware drivers.
Two drivers sped into parking lots, made wide turns and just missed hitting him in his exit. One driver was holding his cellphone over his steering wheel as he swerved to avoid slamming into Quick.
Another driver, going the wrong way down a lane on a street, pulled over to another lane after Quick honked his horn, but then continued to drive down the wrong lane.
Fortunately, Quick was not injured, unlike 67 Minnesotans who were killed by distracted drivers in 2015, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Department officials say that 1 in 5 crash fatalities are due to distracted driving. Similarly, the National Safety Council says 22 percent of crashes involve distracted drivers.
Tougher penalties for distracted driving may come up again at the Minnesota Legislature, which last year did increase the fine for the second distracted driving offense to $225. The chances of passing harsher penalties during an election year are slim.
How effective the new texting laws are can be debated. According to the Minnesota Highway Patrol, from 2008 when the ban on texting while driving went into effect, the number of drivers ticketed has gone up from 180 to 3,467 in 2015. Certainly that would suggest that law enforcement is aggressively enforcing the law, but so far the increased penalty has not reduced the number of violations.
Legislators should listen to what Quick has observed. He said he could write a book on ways people distract themselves while driving. He has plenty of material:
“How about going down I-94 and the woman next to you is holding the phone with her left hand, smoking a cigarette and flipping the ashes out with her right hand …? … How about the driver who is on the phone, holding it with his/her left hand and gesturing with the right hand – how do they steer the car? Have you ever been in a high school parking lot and the driver in front of you is an adult, has three kids in the car and is yapping away on a cellphone by the sign that reads ‘concentrate on your driving’?”
Quick offers these suggestions that help him concentrate on his driving before he pulls out of his driveway and into the war zone: Turn the radio station to where you want it, turn on the heat or air conditioner, depending on the weather, and say one Hail Mary with the hope of making it back home safely.
Don Heinzman is a columnist for ECM Publishers.