Aug 30, 2012 at 8:22 am
ST. CLOUD, MN (KNSI) - It's not a stretch to call it an epidemic. It killed over 3,000 people nationwide in 2010 alone. The mystery killer, incidents of distracted driving -- analysts say your chances of getting into a crash are 23 times higher if you're text messaging behind the wheel.
Combating distracted driving is the focus of an event today at the Minnesota School of Business in Waite Park where officials feel they are speaking going right to the younger drivers who can benefit the most from some sobering statistics.
"That is the demographic that is most often involved in these crashes, and what research shows is what stops people from texting, putting on lipstick, drinking coffee, whatever the case may be, what stops them is being involved in a crash," MSB spokeswoman Tami Deland said, calling the event highly topical.
The event today centers on making sure young drivers understand the high cost of texting or fiddling with your cell phone while driving. The key speaker -- Minnesota State Patrol Sergeant Jesse Grabow -- Grabow's a 14-year veteran of the Patrol -- and he sees what distracted driving can do every day on the job.
"Distracted driving is a factor in one out of every four crashes. So 25% of the crashes in Minnesota involve some type of distraction," Grabow said.
Sergeant Grabow brings more than just a professional understanding of the effects of distracted driving to the talks. He experienced loss caused by distraction on a very personal level. In 2009 Grabow lost his grandfather in a distracted driving incident.
"It was about three years ago in the end of August...he lived in rural Minnesota on a two lane paved road. He went out to get that mail that day and he ended up being struck and killed by a motorist who was on her cell phone and driving along county roads way too fast," Grabow said.
Even if a driver is supremely confident in their own ability to multi-task, Grabow says they may be sharing the road with someone who isn't.
"Nobody is immune. You can be the best driver in the world and let's say you are really good at texting and driving, you think you can stay within your lane, well you might meet the next car coming at you in the opposite direction that is not as good as you and they cross over into your lane," Grabow said. "You never have a chance to react because you've got your head down in your phone. We all need to pay attention and realize no one is immune from the type of behavior that is going on on our highways."
Organizers hope today's event featuring video of Minnesota crashes as well as a distracted driving course in the parking lot will help bring home the powerful message.
"The idea is to be proactive, get that information out there and make it stick in an impactful way," Deland said.
In his experience Grabow says his presentation, and the event as a whole, has a profound effect on those who attend.
"It is one of those things you can see that it is really engaging, people are paying attention, and they have a lot of questions afterwards and even sometimes you can see the emotion that strikes people with because no one ever thinks it can happen to them, but the reality is, it can," Grabow said.
The event runs from 12:30 to 1:30 this afternoon and is open to the public.