When Snapchat is more important than driving

If drivers, particularly teenage drivers, are playing with their smartphones when they should be paying attention to driving, it’s not because they don’t know distracted driving is a bad idea. They’ve been told hundreds of times. They’ve simply decided that the risk to others is worth their phone enjoyment.

Surely, a 19-year-old driver in Bethel never thought she’d be the one to put someone like Laura Elena Soto Silva, 33, a mother of six, in the hospital with critical injuries.

Jordan Paulus was on Snapchat when she didn’t notice some traffic was stopped in front of her car, so she swerved and struck Silva, a road construction worker.

“The foreman told me she had no chance to move. She just got tossed,” Ryan Berg, her partner, tells the Star Tribune’s Tim Harlow. “She had a reflective vest and pants on. There was no reason not to see the stopped traffic.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the couple with medical bills and recovery costs.

She was doing well until yesterday when doctors reported an artery leading to her heart may have ruptured.

All because of a Snapchat and a driver’s deliberate refusal to accept the responsibility of driving a car.

It’s a $275 fine for texting while driving in Minnesota. The second time you’re caught. The first time? $50. Petty cash.

“In 2015, lawmakers approved tougher penalties when a driver kills or injures another person while ‘aware of and consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk’ behind the wheel. But that’s not enough,” the Star Tribune correctly pointed out in a May editorial, recognizing that the Legislature was likely to fail at doing anything more about the problem.

In an accompanying poll, 78 percent said “texting or checking Facebook while driving should be treated equal to or more severely than drunken driving. Even more, 79 percent, say it should be illegal to talk on a cellphone while driving.”

Ninety percent said they they aren’t part of the problem.

The Legislature had a chance to increase the odds of people like Laura Elena Soto Silva getting home to her kids, by passing a hands-free requirement for cellphones in cars. It chose not to.

  • kevins

    If that was our daughter, she would have more than a fine to pay. A few days flagging in the sun on one of the construction sites would be the first step…

    • Rob

      Followed by a nice chunk of jail time for good measure, I hope.

      • Al

        If it were my daughter? Absolutely.

  • Rob

    More shiny, happy news. For anyone who isn’t a misanthrope, you’re not paying attention.

  • Mike

    There’s some sort of mass psychosis in effect when 90% say they’re not part of the problem, yet every single day on my commute I see people checking their phones all around me.

    IMO, talking on a phone while driving is only marginally less distracting than texting. Someone on the phone is often not paying attention to the speed of traffic, veering from one side of the lane to the other (or into the next lane or shoulder), and being generally inattentive. I’d like to see a ban on all phone or text conversations while driving. Use of a phone’s GPS function could be allowed as long as it was mounted on the dash. That’s it.

    And while we’re at it, use of the phone while on a bike should be illegal too.

    • I was using the bluetooth in my car to make a phone call a few weeks ago, both hands on the wheel. When I got home (45 minute commute) and couldn’t remember a single part of my trip. Distractions are distractions. Scared the !#$% out of me when I realized I was home.

      • Rob

        You buried the lede. Did your experience change your behavior, or do you plan to keep talking on the phone while driving?

        • JamieHX

          I learned on a Kerri Miller show at least a few years ago about how TALKING on the phone is only a little better than texting. I think the statistic her expert reported that day was that the likelihood of a crash was seven times greater while talking on the phone than while not talking on the phone. I know from my own experience that having a conversation with a passenger while driving distracts me significantly. I can’t keep up with the conversation while paying attention to driving, so I usually let my passengers know that and I suggest we listen to the radio (or this great new recording I have of the Brandenburg Concertos – it’s almost like hearing them for the first time! :o) ).
          I really appreciate the late-morning host (Tom Weber??) who says “please don’t text or call us while driving”).

      • Kassie

        A lot of the times when I drive home I don’t remember a single part of my trip and I don’t use my phone when I drive except for playing music.

        When I bus, I always remember something, but it is usually not a pleasant thing. Like yesterday it was the person singing along horribly to whatever they were listening to on their phone. It sounded like someone trying to sing off key with a rag stuffed in their mouth.

    • Rob

      Saw a guy texting on his unicycle. Sad.

    • Rob

      Yup. But until we’re willing to invest in heavy enforcement, levy huge fines for talking on the phone while driving and mete out harsh jail sentences as well, life will continue to be cheap regarding this issue.

      • 212944

        Bingo! Commute from nearly Wisconsin to MPLS weekdays, using interstates, highways and surface roads; mostly 94 but depending on traffic, weather, contruction, etc., I may take 61 or 36 or 494 or 694 or surface roads much of the way instead).

        Rarely … RARELY … in more then ten years of this do I ever see any enforcement of traffic laws by state, counties or cities.

    • Barton

      I don’t agree about the GPS on the dash. I’ve seen so many people focused on their dash for their GPS they don’t pay attention. The GPS has a talk to you function. Program where you want to go into it before you put the vehicle in drive, then don’t look down at it – just listen to the disembodied voice.

      But I do agree about cyclists (& motorcyclists, I guess) on mobile devices. The same rules apply to them/us as they/we are also traffic. On my cycle commute home yesterday, I had to scream at someone riding hands free while fiddling with their phone (ear plugs in as well) as he started coming right at me (from his side of the marked trail to my side). Completely distracted. He ran into a plastic construction cone a bit later, said a fellow cyclist who past me.

    • JamieHX

      I would vote up on your post if you hadn’t said the thing about the GPS. Even on the dashboard that is too distracting too.

  • 90% believe they are not the problem? More like 90% of us on the road ARE the problem. I’m constantly distracted by the radio, another driver, a shiny new billboard, the temperature, a bad/good day at work, my plans for that evening or last week.

    This is a good example of a conversation starter for all families, and friends to have about the responsibilities of driving. Pay attention the best you can, stay consistent with your speed based on the traffic around you, and keep a safe following distance.

    • Bridget L.

      All of these things! Eating, putting on makeup, picking up the thing on the floor that can’t possibly wait until I get home, etc.

  • BJ

    I use my phone all the time for directions, even going to and from work with the construction going on. I see the text messages, my phone auto replies that I am driving. But I still see that I have a text when I look at the GPS.

    I love that my car has built in hands free and it is really great. My Van does as well but it is so bad I can’t use it. Luckily 99% of the time I’m talking to my wife so if I’m in the van she is sitting next to me.

    • JamieHX

      You shouldn’t be looking at the GPS or anything else while driving, except for the road and things having to do with operating your car. If you have to check your GPS, pull off the road and stop before doing it.

  • BJ

    Oh, and another great reason for the automatic/”robot overlord” driven cars to arrive sooner!

  • Gary F

    And Snapchat, and Google Maps, and Facebook, and emails……….

  • Al

    Phone goes in the purse. Purse gets zipped and goes on passenger seat. It’s the best way I can guarantee my Pavlovian brain doesn’t take over when I hear the text ding. We’re conditioned to respond.

    If I hit someone, God forbid, because I’m f*cking around on my phone? Jail. Big fines. Do it. I would deserve it.

    • Mine either stays in my pocket or shut in the middle console.

      The guy who did this to me was texting (and received a ticket). I was stopped at a red light (listening to MPR of course):

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c20afdb66ea1eeb6a59d61ed00147bffc4e6e9b3e91324aa752fe6451198f9dc.jpg

      • MikeB

        See what happens when you stop at a red light? 😉

        • No kidding.

          To be fair, i was behind 12 other cars at that red light and this was the front end damage after being rear-ended into the car in front of me, which, in turn, was rammed into the car in front of that car…

          A 4 car collision due to a young punk sexting his GF instead of paying attention to the road.

          The guy never even slowed down.

  • AL287

    I think lawmakers are on to something with changing the legal driving age to 21 and the legal drinking age to 18.

    This is why insurance rates are so high for drivers under 25 and well it should be.

    Much as people like to say they can “multitask”, it is a proven fact that there is no such thing. Your brain can only focus on one task at a time. You might think you can juggle several things at once but you’re only moving back and forth from one task to the other.

    When you’re driving that single task MUST be focusing on the road and traffic in and around you, do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

    There are six young children out there who are likely going to lose their mother because of one selfish, foolish teenager whose Snapchat conversation was more important than driving safely.

    Tragedies didn’t work for gun control and they won’t work for smartphones because it would inconvenience too many people. Our legislature tried and failed. It was more important to get re-elected than to pass a law that just makes common sense.

    So much for respect for life in the U.S.

    Turn it off, put it down and live.

    It’s as simple as that.

    • Remove the first two paragraphs and you are onto something. Age has nothing to do with distracted driving. Unless, maybe, you look at the octogenarians. They might be less distracted while driving but that is also a stereotype 🙂

      • jon

        NHTSA disagrees with your findings…

        https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/documents/driver_electronic_device_use_in_2015_0.pdf

        Chart is on page 2 16-24 is more likely to be using the cell phone while driving.

        • 0.6% difference…you are correct that is “more”. Which must mean older drivers are less distracted while driving?

          • jon

            First off.. if you are looking at the “Handheld cell phone use” graph (little one)…. it’s a 15% difference, you may have meant a 0.6 point difference.

            Now, look at the other charts… where it indicates that the 16-24 age group is more than twice as likely to be visibly manipulating hand held devices… And if we want to talk about distracted driving in general you can look at other reports form the NHTSA here:
            https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812260

          • My contention is that associating distracted driving with a certain demographic reduces the conversation to finger pointing.

            What is your opinion?

          • KariBemidji

            And associating it with young drivers make it seem that driving while distracted is something that you can get better at with age.

          • jon

            I only wish to point out that saying things like “Age has nothing to do with distracted driving.” is blatantly false.

            It’s not my opinion, it’s a fact supported by the data that I linked.

          • You are missing the forest for the trees.

            Distractions cause distracted driving. NHTSA’s data shows 16-24yr olds are more likely to be distracted by technology than other age groups. Nothing more. Wouldn’t you agree that 25-45yr old parents are more likely to be distracted by kids screaming in the back seat. What is truly causing the distraction? The kids or the persons age?

          • jon

            except that is not true. not at all.

            Distraction is a cause for fatal accidents at a disproportionately high rate among the 15-29 age group… I’ll post the link again…
            https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812260
            The same holds true for non-fatal crashes (though the captured data for not fatal collisions is sketchier because who knows what is and what is not reported…)

            While parents might be more likely to be distracted by children, younger drivers are more likely to be distracted, period. That is any distraction, phones, passengers, etc.

            I don’t know what it will take for you to give up on the preconceived notion that age doesn’t matter, but all the data says it does, at least all the data I can find on the topic… if you’ve got something that says otherwise, share it.

        • AL287

          And your point is….

      • AL287

        Reaction time slows as you age and eyesight is also affected, two of the reasons elderly drivers get into accidents more frequently.

  • crystals

    “particularly teenage drivers”

    I gotta say, I don’t see this as a particularly teenage problem. My personal experience out and about on roads lead me to see 20 and 30 somethings as the biggest offenders.

    My peeve o’ the moment is people who pull out their phones at stoplights. I mean – thanks for not looking at it ALL the time while driving, I guess? But seriously: if you can’t sit at a stoplight for a few moments without something to do, you have a problem.

    Hike the fines, make it matter. Behavior, at least for many, will change.

    • MikeB

      Hike the fines, yes. People are deciding it is worth the risk/penalty to be phoning while driving.

    • Veronica

      40 and 50 year olds are equally bad!!!!!!!!

  • Postal Customer

    California has had the hands-free law since at least 2014.

    Minnesota doesn’t lead on these things. We never have.

  • Christopher Hahn

    Do we have to make a brand new distracted driving law? Or can we just say that looking at a cell phone while driving falls into Reckless driving?

    • That would require a new law.

      • Laurie K.

        I actually think that given her admission that she was using Snapchat at the time of the crash that she could be charged with reckless driving. Reckless driving is defined as “a person who drives a motor vehicle while aware of and consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the driving may result in harm to another or another’s property….”(Minn. Stat. §169.13, subd. 1(a)).

  • Capn

    Hands-free calling solves nothing. The phone calls are the distraction and emotional fuel. If the point were having two hands on the wheel, you’d better outlaw stick shifts, too. Technology is the real solution to this problem, but citizens can write bills too, so… do something rather than whining.

    • A ban on the use of phones is also aimed at keeping your head up.

      • Capn

        A ban on the use of phones is not the same as hands-free calling.

        • Yes and no. The Legislature’s bill banned cellphones UNLESS it’s hands free.

          • Capn

            What on earth is your point? I said hands-free calling solves nothing because it’s the distraction that’s the issue, not having two hands on the wheel.

            I agree with banning the use of phones (besides already-running GPS) altogether while driving, never said I didn’t.

  • Auto manufacturers are not without responsibility, either. Some of the controls and displays are complicated and distracting even when used normally. If you rent a car, you have to take more time just to take in the basics of the controls – before you even pull out of the rental lot. Worst experience ever was car rental in Japan with driving on the left and a GPS that spoke only Japanese.