According to Minnesota's Department of Public Safety, distracted driving involving electronic gadgets played a role in an estimated 20 percent of the state's traffic collisions in both 2016 and 2017. In addition, citations issued last year for texting drivers increased substantially. Preliminary data from last year shows that approximately 178 people were injured in distracted driving car accidents in addition to the estimated 27 victims who suffered fatal injuries.
Earlier this month, the governor signed a bill into law that would restrict motorists to a hands-free mode for their devices beginning in August of 2019. The passage of this law comes after years of lobbying by the families of victims who were killed by the actions of a negligent driver. Both legislative branches have presented various forms of this type of bill in the past several years, but none had made it through both houses. The families of several victims planned to be in attendance when Governor Walz signed the new hands-free law.
One of the most ardent supporters of the law lost his daughter and unborn grandchild when a distracted driver crashed into her vehicle. The father, who has worked as a safety professional for more than 30 years, expressed his relief that other families might be spared the heartache he has experienced after losing his loved one. Though drivers may still use their cell phones and GPS systems, they must only use voice-activated features.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, states that have passed similar legislation recorded a decrease in fatalities attributed to distracted driving car accidents within 24 months of passage. So far, 17 states, including Minnesota and the District of Columbia, are the only ones that have tackled the growing problem of distracted driving through legislative actions. Those who have lost loved ones through the negligent actions of others often sustain enormous financial damages that compound their grief. Under certain conditions, it may be possible to recoup those losses through the civil justice system.