Minnesota’s new distracted driving law


Lauren Arthur

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Carter Debus simulates being on his phone and driving

Lauren Arthur, Writer

According to CDC, Motor Vehicle Safety, one thousand accidents happen in the United States every day because of distraction. Anytime a driver’s mind, eyes, or hands are someplace other than driving they are at risk of becoming part of that statistic. April is distracted driving awareness month, and the perfect time to re-invent the way driving is approached.

In elementary school, kids were taught the dangers of driving without a seatbelt. Introducing this information to developing brains, along with the negative reinforcement of an audio reminder most cars have when someone is not buckled, almost eradicated the issue of driving without a seatbelt in the younger generation. Now that people are safer when a crash occurs, it is time to focus on why those crashes occur, and how people can minimize them.

Distracted Driving Month is not about blaming people for how their minds have been conditioned, but rather conditioning their minds to always to be present and engaged while driving. Minnesota recently became the 17th state to pass a bill requiring all phone use to be hands-free. Previously teens were not allowed to use phones unless they were hands-free, today governor Tim Walz will sign the bill into law making it illegal for anyone to use their phones hands-on, for more information click here. Vijay Dixit who lost his daughter from a distracted driver said, “It’s kind of a bittersweet thing that so many people have lost their lives and we had to lose so many since my daughter Shreya was killed in 2007. So much time and so much effort has gone into getting this done. This is why I feel somewhat comforted. And at the same time more needs to be done.”

Sometimes when people are on their phone it makes me feel uncomfortable, but it is difficult to stand up for your own saftey.”

— Kizzy Richardson

Most people know the dangers of trying to multitask while driving, so identifying why it is still an issue is the goal. Drivers get so comfortable driving that they forget the responsibility that comes along with it. Some drivers may not realize they are checking their phone, because it has become an auto-piloted habit. As members of Gen-Z, it takes a conscious effort to not check the phone when it buzzes.

Drivers’ education preaches turning the phone off or putting it out of reach; however, listening to the radio is an ancient activity. It can be hard to sacrifice a perfectly curated Spotify playlist. Most phones now have settings that turn notifications off while a car is in motion. This way drivers can bop without feeling the buzz that triggers their “check immediately” impulse. Drivers who have a habit of using their phone when they get bored should turn on a setting in their phone that reminds them to focus on the road. If these reminders do not work, then turning the phone off altogether is the best option. Senior Kizzy Richardson said, “Sometimes when people are on their phone it makes me feel uncomfortable, but it is difficult to stand up for your own safety.” Phone addiction is not worth someone’s life.

Although phones are the major reason for distracted driving, it is not the only one. Passengers should be aware of the responsibilities of the driver, and should also keep themselves accountable for not distract them. The driver, passengers, pedestrians and other cars are put in danger by an out of control passenger leading to a distracted driver. As convenient as drive-throughs are, a car is not a dinner table, and eating can also be a highly distracting task. Lastly, navigation can be difficult while driving. Designate a passenger for navigation or map out the destination in advance before driving. When driving alone, it is important to also not get distracted by GPS.

It is important to recognize the risks of not paying attention to the road. Breaking the habit is hard, but with a conscious effort and negative reinforcement, brains can be retrained and distracted driving can be eradicated. It was done with seatbelts, so it is possible to work to eliminate distracted driving. Behind the wheel, the road should always be their first priority.