Distracted driving bill needs attention

By: 
Chuck Kajer, The New Prague Times

In each of the last two years, the Minnesota Legislature took no action on a bill that would increase penalties for distracted driving.

With the increasing reliance on mobile phones and wireless technology, distracted driving has become one of the biggest dangers on our roads. Drivers who are checking Facebook or text messages, watching videos or looking at Snapchat photos are making the roads more and more dangerous.

The primary job of a person behind the wheel is to watch the road and keep their attention on driving. You can’t do that when you are digging in your pocket or purse for a phone or your eyes keep looking at a screen.

Two area families that have experienced the loss of a loved one have been active in lobbying the Legislature to support bills that would prohibit drivers from using hand-held phones while driving. The families of Phil Ilg and Joe Tikalsky have testified at the Minnesota Legislature in favor of bills that would require the use of hands-free devices. Another bill would increase the penalty for drivers who send or receive text messages.

The argument can be made that these laws are difficult to enforce and would be ignored, just as speeding and many other traffic laws are, but the statistics in states that have enacted such laws show a marked decrease in traffic fatalities in the 16 states that have passed similar legislation.

Support for these laws are on the rise, and the Legislature should take action this session.

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