March 01, 2018 08:11 PM
Addressing what they say has become an epidemic, public safety officials on Thursday used the account of a fatal Lake Elmo crash – in which a semitrailer driver was alleged to have been seen looking at his phone at the moment of impact – to say "enough is enough" in regard to distracted driving.
Officials used the news conference to call on drivers to focus only on driving while behind the wheel.
The press conference came two days after the crash on Highway 36 and Lake Elmo Avenue that killed 54-year-old business owner and biology instructor Robert Bursik of Amery, Wisconsin.
The semi's driver, 28-year-old Samuel Wayne Hicks, faces a charge of criminal vehicular homicide after video footage from the truck reportedly showed him looking down at his phone for the eight seconds preceding the crash, according to the Washington County Attorney's Office.
"We see it too often, we see it too regularly," Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said at the news conference. "And Tuesday was another example where someone's killed on our roads for no reason other than someone else's poor choice to make that phone more important than driving.
"And so enough is enough is about all I can say."
According to the criminal complaint, Hicks admitted he had been texting with his girlfriend and using an app while driving along Highway 36, a route he said he traveled about once a week for work.
The state patrol was later provided video from a camera mounted on the semi that showed split-screen footage from both a forward-facing and a rear-facing lens.
The rear-facing lens showed the inside of the cab, and the forward-facing lens showed the road ahead.
According to the complaint, Hicks's phone was in his right hand for the duration of the video, and he was looking down at the phone for the eight seconds preceding the crash.
"He doesn't appear to look up into the windshield until the point of impact, or after the point of impact," said Assistant County Attorney Siv Yurichuk.
Yurichuk said it was her understanding Hicks was being delivered to the Washington County jail Thursday afternoon to turn himself in. He's expected to be arraigned Friday morning.
At the news conference, officials equated distracted driving with drinking and driving.
"My perspective and my position – my office's position – is that distracted driving is no different than drinking and driving," Yurichuk said. "That driver makes the choice to drink before he or she gets into a vehicle, and that driver makes the choice to text or to be distracted in their car while they're driving or before they're driving."
Langer said a change in law would be well and good, but that officers can't enforce distracted driving into extinction.
Updated: March 01, 2018 08:11 PM
Created: March 01, 2018 03:47 PM
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