In Minnesota it is illegal to text and drive.
However, all one has to do is drive down any street or roadway across the state and the reality is going to become very apparent.
Texting while driving (TWD) is a problem.
In an effort to address that issue with local high school students, the Redwood Falls Police Department brought in a group known as UNITE which offers a simulated experience helping to show those who participate the dangers of texting and driving.
Called the Arrive Alive Tour, representatives of UNITE bring in a full-sized vehicle that is adapted to include a three-dimensional virtual simulation which helps them see, in a safe setting, just how dangerous TWD can be.
“We care about you guys and so does your community,” Storn Olson of UNITE told a group of high school students.
Olson encouraged each student who entered the simulator to “make a fresh start” after their experience.
Olson said most students believe they can safely text and drive, adding the simulator can be an eye opener.
However, he added, in most communities the reality is most do not make a significant commitment to stopping TWD until after there is a tragedy.
Olson said a teenage girl is currently serving a life sentence in prison for killing a mother and daughter in a crash. It was discovered she had been texting at the time the crash occurred.
Dana Woodford of the Redwood Falls Police Department and the local school resource officer, said the capability exists for law enforcement to obtain a search warrant to check phone records, adding when a phone is found at a crash it has become standard procedure to check the phone to see if any activity was going on just prior to the crash.
Woodford said when she is off duty and driving around the community she often sees people, adults and teens, using their phones for texting as they drive.
“Statistics show a person who is driving and texting is the same as someone who is driving after drinking four beers,” she said.
The simulator also offered students a chance to experience the reality of DWI, but Woodford said most students know about the dangers of drunk driving.
They don’t realize texting and driving is just as, if not more, dangerous.
The fine for texting and driving in Minnesota is $135.
Olson said many insurance companies are now looking at increasing rates for those who have been cited for TWD.
“I have heard so many stories of heartbreak,” said Olson, who has taken the UNITE simulator to schools, colleges and military bases across the U.S. “We just hope the kids take this seriously. There are 11 teens who are killed every day in texting and driving crashes. That’s almost 4,000 who are killed every year.”
Page 2 of 2 - Woodford said this year’s juniors and seniors experienced the simulator, and the hope is to bring it back every two years to allow all students a chance to experience it before graduating.
More information may be found online at www.arrivealivetour.com.