by Art Kosieradzki
Special to Sun Thisweek
Dakota County Tribune
If you were driving 55 miles per hour while your eyes were closed, you would drive the length of an entire football field. That’s a long distance. But no one chooses to close their eyes while driving, right? No one would willingly be so reckless.
When you look down from the steering wheel to answer a text message, it takes an average of five seconds. Five seconds to travel 100 yards, all while your eyes and your focus are on a phone and not the road. Five seconds that could be deadly.
In 2015, more than 3,400 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in car crashes involving distracted drivers in the U.S. In Minnesota, distracted driving was a factor in 25 percent of all crashes, according to the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety. At any given moment, there are 660,000 vehicles on the road driven by someone using a handheld device. Clearly, distracted driving has become an epidemic in U.S.
For teens, the statistics are even more frightening. A study by AAA reports that 58 percent of all teen crashes – 20 percent of fatal crashes – involved distracted driving, including texting, interacting with passengers and reaching for objects in other parts of the car.
The good news is that we can reverse this trend. Campaigns to promote safe driving for both teens and adults have been effective. For example, thanks in part to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the rate of drunk driving fatalities decreased by 49 percent from 1991 to 2015. Stricter laws, education and technology have increased seatbelt use from 11 percent in 1981 to 90 percent in 2016. With increased enforcement, safety campaigns and awareness, we can and will have the same impact on the culture of distracted driving that currently grips the United States.
As an injury attorney, I see the terrible consequences of car crashes nearly every day. As a parent, I want to protect our kids from becoming a statistic. That’s why each April during Distracted Driving Awareness Month, I speak with students at Lakeville high schools about how to prevent distracted driving. However, we know distracted driving isn’t just a teen driver problem, it’s an everyone problem that often starts with the adult role models in a young person’s life.
So, adults, here’s your chance to help reverse a deadly trend that has touched so many lives around the country, including right here in Lakeville as we all know too well. On Thursday, April 27, I will be leading an interactive distracted driving seminar for parents and their teen drivers. Joining me will be representatives from the Lakeville police department, the Dakota County attorney’s office, Lakeville Area Public Schools and Lakeville Community Education.
Instead of just telling young drivers what not to do, we hope to engage both teens and their parents in an honest conversation about the causes and consequences of distracted driving and thus empowering them to make the right choice when they know all the facts. Young drivers learn their driving habits from their parents, and it’s up to adults to set a good example for their kids. This interactive conversation empowers teens and adults alike to practice safer driving habits themselves and call out those who don’t.
The free Ending the Distracted Driving Epidemic session will be at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 27, at Kenwood Trail Middle School, 19455 Kenwood Trail, Lakeville.
Refreshments and a question-and-answer session will follow the presentation. For more information, contact me at 952-469-2288 or [email protected].
Art Kosieradzki is a trial attorney and partner with the law firm of Sieben Carey in Lakeville. He has represented injured people and their families for more than 25 years and heads the firm’s Lakeville office. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.