An Eagan mom whose young son nearly died in a car wreck last summer made a personal plea today for drivers to stop using their smartphones on the road.
Kelsey Dyals said her 21-month old son Henry was nearly killed when a car driven by teen driver hit her car head-on at an intersection in Eagan in July. Henry suffered a serious head injury, even though he was buckled into his car seat.
Dyals is cautiously optimistic that her son will recover, but she still fears the long-term consequences of the crash. Her son still requires anti-seizure medication.
Because of the crash, she has a new appreciation for the dangers of texting, emailing and other distractions that drivers turn to on their phones. She also confessed that she had done so herself.
"I have, but I won't anymore," Dyals said. "And I just want to get the word out that I am young, and I understand that teenagers think that their phones are their priorities. But it's not. Because one text message almost killed my son."
State officials on Monday urged drivers to heed her warnings. They said one in four fatal crashes in Minnesota was caused by distracted driving, responsible for nearly 50 deaths. Officials said 16,900 crashes in 2014 can be traced to distracted driving, and nearly 7,400 people were hurt.
"The National Safety Council says you're 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash if you're engaged in this behavior," said Donna Berger, director of the state's Office of Traffic Safety. "I don't think checking someone's Facebook status, checking that text message, that ding of an email — it's not worth that. People have to just put that phone away and then that temptation's gone. Silence it. Put it out of reach."
Berger said she hopes that distracted driving eventually gets as much attention as impaired driving.
"This is coming up to the level of drinking and driving, and it all comes down to changing the culture of people that get behind the wheel," she said. "It's not okay to multitask behind the wheel. That's the one place you don't multitask ... It's really changing that culture, so if you see someone doing that behavior, it's okay for you to speak up and say that's not okay."
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