Losing focus at the wheel
Distracted driving brought home
September 26, 2017
Eyes set on the road, senior Katie Fredrickson can’t see why students would choose to focus on their phones while driving.
“Everyone goes on their phone. I’m in the car with people all the time and they’re on their phones while driving. I don’t want anyone that I care about to not come home,” Fredrickson said.
According to the Hennepin County police report Officer William Mathews, a Wayzata police officer, was struck and killed by a distracted driver Sept. 8, while clearing debris from U.S. Highway 12. Officer Mathews was reported to have been walking back to his car when a Nissan Murano hit him while traveling 55 to 65 miles per hour. The driver, Beth Freeman, allegedly was using her phone moments before the accident. Officer Mathews was married to Shawn Mathews, assistant athletic director and had a 7-year-old son, Wyatt.
Following the death of Officer Mathews, Fredrickson said she created a petition to aid in passing a piece of legislature to further the legal punishment for distracted driving.
What is distracted driving
AAA driving instructor Mike Torkelson said distracted driving stems obsessions with phones.
“The (distracted driving) problem comes with the fact that so many people are constantly on our phones,” Torkelson said. “We have them with us and it can get to the point where it just becomes an extension of ourselves.”
According to police liaison Pam Gronski, personal interactions and phone use are the leading causes of teen car accidents.
“The most common forms of distraction leading up to a crash by a teen driver are actually interacting with other people in the car,” Gronski said. “That is the most, quickly followed by cell phones.”
Gronski said students are in such a hurry that they often neglect personal safety.
“A lot of kids are in a rush from point A to point B, ‘I have to get to practice,’ ‘I have to dance,’ ‘I have to get to my job,’; they have to get to wherever they’re going,” Gronski said. “(Teenagers) don’t tend to be planners as much so they might be eating while they’re driving or texting their friends ‘I’m running late’ or ‘I’m on my way.’ I just think that they’re lives are so much more active and again they are young and carefree.”
Connection to Park
Fredrickson said the petition works to further a bill designed to limit distracted driving.
“(The bill) puts extreme restrictions on using your cell phone while driving,” Fredrickson said. “It also adds fines and basically gives more punishment for using your phone while driving.”
Senior Kate Brinkman said the petition reminds her of the reason behind staying off her phone while driving, especially when temptations are high.
“I think (the petition is) a really good idea. I think it is really easy to just have it in the back of your mind that you’re not supposed to be on your phone, but to go out of your way to not be on your phone is a whole new step,” Brinkman said. “I committed myself to that (petition). If I’m ever tempted, I go back to that signature.”
Junior Bryan Huynh said he notices students on their phones on a daily basis.
“Pretty much every day I go home from school there are people driving around in the parking lot and changing their music,” Huynh said. “I mean they aren’t going very fast but they do it.
According to Torkelson, the younger generation of drivers is more susceptible to distractions while on the road.
“I know that statistically the younger generations are far more comfortable in using all of these new technological innovations and everything that comes along with having a cell phone,” Torkelson said.
Holding each other accountable
Torkelson said all passengers in a car should share the responsibility to create a safe driving environment.
“One of the first things is just to hold each other accountable. If you are riding in a car and the driver is on their phone, don’t be afraid to say something about it. I think that is really important,” Torkelson said. “Sometimes the passenger can help out with navigating or opening up the GPS.”
Torkelson said he believes this generation can make a large impact in bringing awareness to distracted driving.
“I can remember in the eighties there was a huge understanding about the damage of drunk driving,” Torkelson said. “I am hoping this generation right now can do the same thing with using the phone while driving. This generation I know can do it.”