The widow of a Wayzata police officer struck and killed by a driver on Highway 12 last year helped kick off a campaign to stop distracted driving in Hopkins on Tuesday.
Bill Mathews was struck and killed by a 54-year-old Mound woman. Beth Freeman is facing criminal vehicular homicide charges in Minneapolis, after authorities say they found she was using her phone and had cocaine in her system when she hit Mathews in September.
Mathews' wife Shawn spoke at the kickoff of a distracted driving enforcement campaign launched in her late husband's honor. She talked about the terrible toll even a momentary lapse of attention can have on a family and a driver.
She also noted that she's proof that texting, calls and other distractions aren't critical activities: Mathews didn't even have her phone with her when her husband was killed in September.
"I think the message is, it wouldn't have made a difference. Had I got the call 10 minutes later, he still would have been dead, and I think that's a good valuable lesson," Mathews said in an interview. "None of us are that important that we're needed all the time. We have to learn that. It can wait. It can wait five minutes."
The state is in the midst of its annual distracted driving enforcement campaign, which started April 9 and goes through Sunday. Lt. Robert Zak with the Minnesota State Patrol said police have already stopped one driver reading a bank statement behind the wheel, another playing Pokemon Go, and another trading stocks behind the wheel.
Sgt. Mike Glassberg with the Hopkins police department said the effort along Highway 12 on Tuesday will focus on drivers using their phones at stop signs and stop lights.
"We see it all the time. People using their phones at stoplights. We stop them. They do not believe that is a violation of the law, and it is," said Glassberg. "Their focus is taken away from the driving."
Glassberg said officers will hand out citations, as well as postcards with a photo memorial to officer Mathews, to remind drivers what's at stake when they get behind the wheel.