Families and police officers who have lost loved ones to distracting drivers are pushing lawmakers to turn Minnesota into the 16th hands-free driving state in the country.
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The Minnesota State Patrol and victim’s families will testify before the House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee, which is considering the bill that would prohibit holding phones while driving.
Greg Tikalsky is urging lawmakers to pass the bill into law because his father, Joe Tikalsky, was killed by a distracted driver on Oct. 28, 2015.
Greg Tikalsky aid his father died on the road outside his house on his way to get the paper from his mailbox. He was hit by woman who was texting behind the wheel.
“The driver said before she was able to hit the send button she hit a yellow blur and that blur was my dad,” Greg Tikalsky told MPR News.
Joe Tikalskywas a school bus driver for several years in New Prague, and his son said he prided himself in keeping children on the bus safe.
“The driver said before she was able to hit the send button she hit a yellow blur and that blur was my dad,” Greg Tikalsky said.
A similar bill is in Senate. Both call for Minnesotans to use Bluetooth capabilities or a single to talk on the phone while driving.
“We will not let go because this is not about my dad. It’s not about the people lost, it is about the people we have left,” Greg Tikalsky said.
Texting and driving is already illegal but current laws in Minnesota allows people to hold a phone in their hands while driving, something that Minnesota Department of Public Safety spokesperson Mike Hanson said is difficult for officers to enforce.
“One of the challenges that enforcement officers have to take out there is determining that it was not a phone call but a text or webpage or something like that other than a conversation,” Hanson said.
Aside from safety issues, distracted driving is costly, according to Insurance Federation spokesperson Mark Kulda.
“Claims are definitely going up and people are using their phones more and more, and the numbers we have seen and surveys don’t adequately express the problem that’s out there,” he said.
Distracted driving contributes to 1 in 4 crashes in the state and had led to an average of 59 deaths and 223 serious injuries per year over the last five years, according to a State Patrol report released.
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