Widow of Fallen Officer Makes Distracted Driving Plea
The widow of a fallen Wayzata Police Officer is sharing her story about the dangers of distracted driving. One in five crashes in Minnesota is caused by distracted driving. Now a number of police departments in the west metro are conducting extra enforcement as they try to deter this dangerous habit.
“Distracted driving contributes to 59 deaths and 223 serious injuries each year,” said Robert Zak of the Minnesota State Patrol. “Distracted driving citations have jumped dramatically.”
Last September, Wayzata police officer Bill Mathews became a tragic statistic. Mathews was hit by a distracted driver on U.S. Highway 12 and died, instantly turning his wife Shawn into a widow and single parent.
“I didn’t choose this path,” Shawn Mathews said. “It was chosen for me, because of one person’s senseless, careless selfish act.”
Horrific examples like that are why west metro police departments are cracking down.
Officers are hoping the Mathews tragedy is a wake-up call and will convince drivers to stay focused.
“We can use this extra attention for the greater good if we can persuade just one person to put down their phone,” said Wayzata Police Chief Michael Risvold, “Or whatever else might be distracting them.”
Robbinsdale Police Sergeant Chris Woodhall is part of the west metro enforcement team. It didn’t take him long to spot a distracted driver Tuesday morning on I-394.
“I saw a square thing on her steering wheel,” Woodhall said. “It was her phone. When I was catching up to her you could tell her car was all over the road. She was between the dash lines on either side of her lane because she was paying attention to her phone and not driving.”
Unfortunately those are common sites on the road these days and all it takes is one grave mistake to alter many lives.
“I have had to adjust to a life without my rock,” Mathews said. “I’ve had to put the pursuit of my master’s degree on hold and struggle to find a balance between working, parenting and maintaining our home alone.”
Part of the police focus is on drivers who are texting or perusing the internet on smartphones at traffic signals. Some have actually been caught checking bank statements, trading stocks and playing Pokemon Go at stop lights.