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home : opinion : editorial
July 17, 2018

11/8/2017 9:13:00 AM
Distracted driving

A few weeks ago, a young Belle Plaine female was charged with a felony and gross misdemeanor related to a crash that killed a bicyclist.
It is a case that has thrust the issue of distracted driving into the spotlight. The prosecutor's hard line on distracted driving has drawn applause from opponents of distracted driving. We agree that we've reached the point where heavy charges and stern penalties are needed.
According to police, the bicyclist was on the shoulder of Highway 25 near Belle Plaine and the girl was allegedly using Snapchat when her car swerved onto the shoulder and struck the man. The girl was charged with one count of felony criminal vehicular homicide and one count of gross misdemeanor reckless driving. The maximum penalties are 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine for the felony and a year in prison and a $3,000 fine for the gross misdemeanor.
We all know people who ignore the distracted driving rules. Many of them are very good law-abiding people. We have no reason to believe the girl in this case is any different.
The problem is a law-abiding bicyclist is dead. And, distracted driving remains a major factor in automobile accidents that lead to serious injuries and death.
This week's Cottonwood County Sheriff's Report lists a person who was spotted driving erratically near Mt. Lake. The motorist was eventually ticketed for texting while driving.
"We're sick about the number of overall crashes and the number of pedestrians and bicyclists who've been injured or lost their lives to distracted drivers on Minnesota's roadways," said Dorian Grilley, executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota. "We're glad to see Minnesota prosecutors taking distracted driving charges seriously and asking for very strong penalties. It's the only way we can slow this alarming trend. Education and enforcement are not having big enough impacts on crashes."
We know our schools and driver education instructors have made efforts to curb distracted driving. And we know that there have likely been countless family discussions on the topic in households throughout the county.
Those efforts need to continue and even increase. At the same time we need to look at laws and enforcement as two more important parts of the equation.
A new law approved by state lawmakers in 2015 played a role in the Belle Plaine crash. The law increased the penalty for causing a fatality or great bodily harm to another person while committing a reckless driving offense
We must continue all efforts to curb distracted driving. It's a matter of life and death.
    - Rahn Larson

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