The Big Story Blog

Frustration as Minnesotans rail on distracted driving

Posted at 3:46 PM on December 14, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Transportation

Most of the Minnesotans who reached out to us today favored a ban on cell phone use while driving. Many had a harrowing story of the road that had cemented their views.

"I have seen SO many examples of terrible driving in the last year or so--and every time, the person has had a phone in his or her hand," Laura Armstrong of Winona wrote. "The statistics seem so clear--something must be done."

My daughter and I, driving to school before 8 a.m., have almost been hit on two separate occasions within the last three months.Both times the driver (these were two different people) was animatedly chatting on a phone and holding the phone to her head (both were women) while turning left into traffic and was so "into" her call that she did not even look at thru traffic before making the turn.

I had to jam hard on the brakes to avoid getting clobbered--my daughter and I were both terrified (and also afterward, furious).

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"As a non-distracted biker and driver, I can usually tell a distracted one from behind or even the side, without actually seeing the driver with a phone on the side of their head," wrote Robert Rossi of Minneapolis. " I'm particularly wary on my bike, because cell-phone drivers often realize belatedly that they are in the wrong lane, or want to turn, and don't check for something like a bike before doing so.

Sadly, the worst I ever saw was a bicyclist texting while riding with no hands on the handlebars...through stop sign after stop sign, not even looking for cross traffic!

At least the most likely victim of that sort of stupidity would be themselves, though it could be a pedestrian, especially a kid.

Richard Molby of Minneapolis said he's been nearly run into crossing the street at a crosswalk "by people too busy yacking about God knows what."

I watched a driver approach a red light (southbound on Hwy 55 near 42nd Street) at full speed as he was looking down at his phone, texting.

He slammed on the brakes last minute but it still put him past the crosswalk, into the intersection. Imagine had there been a car stopped in the lane ahead of him.


About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.