At some point every driver has passed some jackhole lane weaver only to see ‘em putzing with their cellphone. Some of us have probably even been that guy.
But highway fist shakers can take solace in knowing that as of Saturday serial texting drivers will face stiffer penalties. Under a new law, repeat LOL offenders will be hit with $275 fines for their second and any subsequent infractions. However, the fee for first-timers will remain at $50. Being stopped at a traffic light won’t get you off the hook. The law also covers emailing, web browsing, and playing Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.
Factor in court fees and the total cost for that “where u at, bro?” could run about $345, says the bill’s author Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis).
Last year people with badges issued 3,200 citations statewide, up from 847 in 2010 when the law took effect. While the fine hike could decrease the use of middle fingers on roadways, its main purpose is curbing distracted driving — a factor in 61 deaths on Minnesota roads last year. Between 2010 and 2014, driver distractions contributed to 19 percent of traffic-related fatalities.
“Distracted driving behavior is aggravating and it’s annoying, and it’s deadly,” Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman said during a press conference.
Matthew Riggs knows that all too well. Two years ago he was in Afghanistan on his second deployment with the U.S. Army. He knew something bad had happened, but his family wouldn’t say much until he got back to Minnesota. After two days of travel, Riggs learned his brother, David, had been hit by a car near their home in Oakdale. The driver was texting.
“When I found out David was not going to wake up that day, that was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my entire life,” Riggs recalled. “I saw him in the hospital bed and I knew that was the last time I was ever going to see him.”
The tougher law takes effect amid an especially deadly year for Minnesota motorists. Through June, there were 31 percent more traffic deaths than at the same time last year.