Initiate Hands Free Driving in Minnesota

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We’ve all heard it before, “Don’t text and drive,” but many teens and adults don’t really take this statement to heart.

As I was sitting at the stoplight at Minnetonka Boulevard and Highway 100 earlier this evening, I looked around to see if people were on their phones. Stunningly, every single person sitting in the driver's seat was looking at a phone. I was astonished that people young and old could not put down their phones for just a few minutes as they drove home from work or to their nightly activities. Is the text, email, or Snapchat really that urgent? If it is, please pull into a parking lot.

As many of you know, Officer William Matthews recently died on the side of Highway 12, after being hit by a woman who was on her phone while driving. Although I never met Officer Matthews personally, I have heard he was a kindhearted man who loved his job and family.

His wife Shawn works at our school and she never fails to brighten my day when I see her. We have seen each other nearly every day for the past four years, and she consistently greets me with a smile and asks, “Hi, how are you doing Katie?”. She checks in to see how my sports are going and is always encouraging and kind, even if I am disappointed. Shawn shows a genuine interest in my life, and it is people like her that make St. Louis Park a great place to grow up.

My heart aches for Shawn and her son. She is young, but already a widow, living without the person she vowed to love for the rest of her life. Their son Wyatt will grow up without a father to read to with him at night, cheer him on at sporting events, see him graduate high school, or celebrate when he gets married and has children. Shawn and Wyatt will live through these moments and years with a void in their lives, for one reason: someone could not put down their phone while driving. It is unconscionable to prioritize a text message or Snapchat ahead of a lifetime of lost memories for a family.

I vow to NEVER use my cell phone while driving, not even to change the song on the aux cord, or look at directions. If something is really that important, I will pull over. If I need directions, I will turn on the audio version before I begin driving. I will never hold my cell phone in my hand while I am behind the wheel. Driving comes with responsibilities and staying safe is number one.

Now I ask something of each of you. Please join me. By making this pledge your name will be added to my petition asking Minnesota legislators and Governor Dayton to pass a hands-free law for drivers. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia already have similar laws.  It is time for Minnesota to take this important step too.  If we do, thousands of senseless tragedies can be avoided in the future.

Please join me in petitioning the next session of the Minnesota Legislature to pass a hands-free bill. All you have to do is electronically sign your name using the link below. Your action and commitment to this cause can help prevent tragedies for people like Officer Matthews, or others in your own circle of family and friends.

If at any time in the future you consider picking up that text message or Snapchatting while driving, please remember Officer Matthews’ widow Shawn and their fatherless son Wyatt. You do not want to be responsible for such a tragedy.

Dear Legislators,

Please pass the hands free driving bill proposed in the 2017 session, during the 2018 session of the Minnesota Legislature. Please remember Officer William Matthews when you vote on this important and life-saving bill.



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