Your 'What is that person doing on the road?' distracted driving story of the day

The driver was too busy getting ready to watch the road.

Here's a pretty horrifying story of a driver not paying any attention on the road, shared by the McLeod/Meeker County Toward Zero Deaths Facebook page.

It's 11:30 a.m. or so on Monday, just southwest of Hutchinson. And there's a woman in a pickup truck driving along. She reaches over to get her coffee – taking her eyes off the road, and crossing over to the gravel shoulder.

After that, she starts doing her hair. There were no hands on the wheel during this time (she was probably steering with her knees, the post says), and the pickup is weaving within the lane.

"I figured after she was done with her hair she would now focus on driving," the post continues. "I was wrong."

The driver looks into the mirror, still with no hands on the steering wheel, and begins doing her makeup. And the pickup continues swerving.

“If I was working it would have been a good stop for sure,” Officer Andrew with the Glencoe Police Department told GoMN.

He's the one who shared that story on the Facebook page. He wasn't on duty at the time, just out and about personally. But it's the type of distracted driving he sees "very often" while out on the road.

It gets especially bad early in the morning, when there's that rush of people going back to work, he said. He's even seen drivers that have "bowls of cereal with milk in hand," he added.

"A generation where it has now become the 'norm' to be running late and trying to catch up with things inside the car," he wrote in the Facebook post. "Wake up 5 minutes earlier than your 'norm' and finish getting ready at home."

Distracted driving kills people

In Minnesota, it’s illegal for drivers to send a text or email or access the internet while the vehicle is part of traffic – meaning drivers shouldn’t be reaching for their phone while waiting at a red light. A motorist could face a $50 fine plus court fees for their first texting-and-driving offense, and $275 in fines for additional offenses.

But texting and driving isn’t the only distraction. Adjusting music, eating or drinking, reading, and other tasks can cause drivers to take their attention off the road, which can be dangerous or even fatal.

Being distracted behind the wheel is a contributing factor in one out of every four crashes in Minnesota, the Department of Public Safety says. That results in at least 70 deaths and 350 serious injuries every year, according to their estimates.

In 2015 they did a distracted driving study, looking for signs of distraction on the road for a couple weeks during that summer.

Their results? Nearly 30 percent of the 11,471 drivers they observed were distracted.

Men tended to be distracted more often than women. And people between the ages of 16 and 29 had the highest distraction rate, at 35 percent.

Hands-free only proposal

There is a bill in the Minnesota House and Senate that would make it illegal to use a cellphone while driving, unless it's being used hands-free.

That could be with voice commands, whether that's through a headset or other accessory or simply on speaker. You can use one-touch functionality to make the call however.

Both versions are in committees, but it's unclear whether there's enough support to get a version approved and to the governor's desk, where it could then become law.

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