Watching 'Law & Order' and the many ways Minnesotans get scary behind the wheel

Minnesota State Troopers would like you to know you should not FaceTime, email, or cradle live pigs while driving.

Minnesota State Troopers would like you to know you should not FaceTime, email, or cradle live pigs while driving. Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

You're driving a ludicrously complicated one-and-a-half-ton death machine that can easily go 80 miles per hour if you put your foot down just a little too hard. You’re bound to slip up every once in a while.

But every so often, a motorist comes along and sets the bar so bafflingly low it makes the rest of us look like Baby Driver.

According to the Minnesota State Patrol’s Twitter feed, a trooper pulled somebody over on I-94 on last week. It turns out the driver was watching an episode of Law & Order while motoring. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. On Thursday, a woman was stopped on Highway 7 during rush hour for failing to go when the light was green. She was “busy” cleaning her windshield with a “mop-like tool.” 

Earlier that same week, another driver was pulled over on I-94 near the Huron exit for forgetting his turn signal. He was sending an email at the time.

The week before, a trooper pulled over a driver on University Avenue. He was using his phone to take a photo of a nearby crash the trooper had already been trying to handle.

The week before that, an 18-year-old was stopped near St. Peter. She was going 96 miles an hour while video chatting on FaceTime.

Earlier this month, a trooper reported pulling over a swerving driver in Chisago County, only to find he had not one but two live pigs in the cabin of his pickup truck. One was sitting on his lap, leaning against the steering wheel.

And, last year, a driver cruising along at 70 miles an hour crashed into a median in northwestern Minnesota. She was watching Netflix. Amazingly, neither she nor anyone else was seriously hurt.

It all seems wild enough, but research from AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that a lot of these instances of distracted driving are commonplace. About half of all drivers surveyed talked on their cellphones behind the wheel, and more than a third send texts or emails.

Thanks to a new law passed this year, starting in August, police will be able to stop anyone they see even holding a phone while operating a vehicle. The hope is that it will reduce the number of deaths related to distracted driving, as similar laws already have in 16 other states.

According to preliminary numbers from Minnesota's Department of Public Safety, 27 people have been killed and 178 were “seriously hurt” in incidents like these.

So sit down, buckle up, and put the phone away. You can find an episode of Law & Order pretty much any time, anywhere. And it will be waiting for you when you arrive.