New Hope Police feature distracted driving simulator at Duk Duk Daze

Distracted driving is a factor in one in four vehicle crashes each year in Minnesota, resulting in at least 70 deaths and 350 serious injuries, according to the state Department of Public Safety. However, the department’s Office of Traffic Safety estimates these numbers are “vastly underreported” due to the challenge of determining distraction as a factor in crashes.
To avoid distracted driving crashes, police departments statewide are educating drivers of all ages to put their phones and other items away while behind the wheel.
“It is not just teens that are making bad driving choices,” said Susan Young, coordinator of Toward Zero Deaths, a Minnesota-wide traffic safety program. “Many adults drive distracted and drive impaired. Adults need to hear these messages too and can also learn from these resources.”
Officer Nichole Korth, of the New Hope Police Department, is doing what she can to stop preventable vehicle crashes from occurring in her community, by featuring two driving simulators at this year’s Duk Duk Daze noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 15, at Northwood Park, 3815 Boone Ave. N.
The distracted driving simulator is a steering wheel attached to a table with a screen. The individual sits in front of the screen and “drives” while being given distractions such as sending a text message.
Korth will also have an impaired driving simulation at the festival. The pedal car operator will wear goggles that simulate impairment and attempt to navigate through a course without hitting any objects.
“I wanted (the simulators) due to the problem of distracted driving and the fact that the simulators are hands-on learning tools to teach the dangers of distractions,” Korth said.
In 2016, New Hope officers wrote 18 citations for texting while driving and 54 citations, 111 verbal warnings and 22 written warnings for inattentive driving. In 2017 thus far, New Hope police have given 23 citations, 54 verbal warnings and eight written warnings for inattentive driving and 20 citations for texting while driving.
According to data collected in 2015 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving during daylight hours in the U.S.
According to the state Department of Public Safety, texting while driving takes the driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 of every 6 seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that is like traveling the length of a football field without looking up.
A University of Utah study found that using a cell phone while driving, whether hands-free or hand-held, delays a driver’s reaction as much as having an blood-alcohol concentration level of 0.08 percent, the legal limit for driving while impaired.
Not to mention, it is illegal to text and drive in Minnesota. A first offense will cost the driver $50 plus court fees and subsequent offenses cost $275 plus court fees. In the most extreme case where someone is injured or killed due to texting and driving, the driver can face a felony charge of criminal vehicular operation or homicide.
Distractions include more than just cell phone use.
“I have frequently discussed with parents and grandparents … the fact that children start learning how to drive from the parents and other adults in their lives long before they acquire a permit,” Korth said. “As soon as they can sit up and look around they are learning to drive.”
The hands-on tools available at Duk Duk Daze are a way for people of all ages to learn the consequences of distracted driving. Other types of distractions can include simply looking away from the road, taking hands off the wheel, adjusting the radio or being lost in thought.
“I am excited to have these two teaching tools available at Duk Duk Daze this year and for all the discussions we will have around the topics of impaired and distracted driving,” Korth said. “Distracted and impaired driving have an impact on the safety of our community and helping people to understand the dangers will hopefully help to change behavior and improve safety for everyone.”
New Hope Police Department also participates in Toward Zero Death traffic enforcement waves throughout the year in conjunction with neighboring communities, offers defensive driving classes through the city’s parks and recreation department and has a certified child passenger safety technician on staff to help residents install and inspect child seats.
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