Letter to the editor: Is that phone call worth the risk?

In addition to my role as a State Farm Insurance agent, I am a member of the Sherburne County Safe Roads Coalition and our primary focus is to decrease traffic deaths and serious injuries in Sherburne County and beyond.

Distracted driving is extremely dangerous and can cause personal injury and property damage. Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.1   Even with a hands-free device, multi-tasking while driving could have serious consequences.

You’ve seen it before; a vehicle near you is weaving in the traffic lane or traveling well below the speed limit. Chances are that driver is not focused on the road!

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation2, there are three main types of distractions:

• Visual – taking your eyes off the road

• Manual – taking your hands off the wheel

• Cognitive – taking your mind off what you are doing

Distracted driving isn’t just about phone calls or text messages. Many activities that take your attention away from traffic can lead to crashes. Examples of distracted driving include:

• Adjusting a navigation system

• Eating

• Grooming

• Reading

• Retrieving a dropped item

• Talking on the phone

• Texting

• Watching a video

Nearly half the U.S. states have restrictions against activities that cause distractions. Some states ban phone use in construction zones and school zones. Others place restrictions on novice drivers and operators of commercial vehicles, such as large trucks and school buses.  In Minnesota, a driver can also be cited for reckless or careless driving when their actions demonstrate a disregard for the safety or rights of others.  Take the time to research the laws in your state, or states you may be visiting this summer, and visit www.distraction.gov.

So, the next time you reach for the phone while driving, answer this question: Is this call important enough to risk hurting someone, or can it wait?


Curt Van Oort, Princeton

State Farm agent