SAUK CENTRE, Minn. (WCCO) — A Minnesota woman is recovering after a distracted Minnesota State Trooper crashed into her car last Friday.

Sitting in her Sauk Centre hospital room with a fractured wrist, four broken ribs and more bruises than you’d care to see, Bernice Uhlenkamp and her husband, Ernie, hate to think what could have been.

“I think if it wouldn’t have been for the seat belts and air bags, I think we would have gone through the windshield,” Bernice said.

On Nov. 11, the retired Elrosa couple was driving home along State Highway 71 two miles south of Sauk Centre. Suddenly and violently, their 2001 Chevy Blazer SUV was spun around as glass shattered and tires screeched.

“We got hit! It happened so fast, I didn’t remember that much about it,” said Ernie Uhlenkamp.

The other vehicle’s driver, who ran over two sets of rumple strips and blew through a clearly marked stop sign at the intersection of Stearns County road 29, was 12-year veteran Minnesota State Trooper, Gregg Gerhartz.

Gerhartz told investigators that he had just made a traffic stop and was entering data on his car’s laptop while driving up to the intersection.

State Patrol spokesman Lt. Eric Roeske said “that’s something we address in training and in the academy and revisit constantly, about driving safely and dealing with all the things we need to do while we perform our duties.”

Gerhartz has apologized to the couple and admits his mistake. The couple says that time will heal all injuries, but add the dangers of distracted driving nearly cost them their lives.

“Yes, we’re all fortunate, I guess,” said Ernie.

The State Patrol said the trooper’s mistake should be a warning to all drivers: it can happen to anyone in just a split second.

Meantime, an internal investigation into the crash could result in disciplinary actions. The crash is also being reviewed by the Stearns County Attorney’s Office for possible charges related to inattentive driving and running a stop sign.

It should be pointed out that in the summer of 2007 Gerhartz was struck by an inattentive truck driver along Interstate 94.

In that crash, Gerhartz suffered a broken leg and told his local paper, “distracted driving is a huge problem.”

Comments (28)
  1. Chuck says:

    Disciplinary action???? How about criminal charges???????

  2. Huh says:

    why cant they just fill it out later.. or when they let the car go… isnt typing on the computer the same as texting? there is no reason he could not do this before moving on. I understand accidents happen, but law enforcement of all people (who write the texting tickets) should know best of all that the computer is just as much of a distraction. I beleive that unpaid leave would be good and of course any bills and vehilce replacement should be done

  3. jeff says:

    hmm if law enforcement see’s u texting they issue a ticket he should be fired on the spot.

  4. rich says:

    Charge him with a crime as we the public would be charged if we did it,the public would be written a ticket and charged by him if we did it,make an example of him

  5. Jake says:

    Oh yeah, let’s magnify this incident by 1000 times, and drag this state trooper behind a truck on a dirt road until there is nothing left but the rope. That will fix EVERYTHING. I’m not excusing this trooper’s actions, I think that this incident should be a permanent incident in his file, but I also think that cooler heads should prevail here. I think that it is quite possible that this trooper has done a lot of GOOD THINGS in his career, and that this was not intentional at all.

    1. Mike says:

      Yes, this was unintentional, of course. But is that an excuse? No. Sure, let’s assume he’s done lots of good things in his career. Good for him. I thank him for that. It’s called “Just Doing Your Job” It doesn’t excuse you from following the same laws everyone else does. Should he get special treatment? No. Typing on a laptop while driving, slamming into a retired couple nearly killing them?? COME ON!! Throw the book at him!

      1. Jake says:

        So, since it was ‘unintentional’, THROW THE BOOK AT HIM. I’d hate to see what you would prescribe if it was intentional. I would guess that you don’t really know much about our laws, about what they were designed to do to influence good behavior, or how our criminal justice system was designed or evolved into to try to discourage uncivil behavior. Admit it, you don’t know PAGE ONE about this trooper. Even troopers have issues, they are human beings too. Would you rather have robots enforcing the laws??? By all means, invent the first generation of PERFECT robot cops.

    2. State Patrol needs a once over! says:

      Joe Pa did a lot of good things in his life too. Should we give him a pass too? Typical talk from another jar head yellow belt.

  6. CM says:

    He should be fired and charged, any normal citizen doing the same thing would probably still be in jail. No excuses, they are still about the law. Good old boys network???

    1. Jake says:

      Really?? So what do you think should have been done to the jerk who rear-ended me on my motorcycle, in BROAD DAYLIGHT, while pulling up to a RED LIGHT, who said that he was looking for a donut on the passenger seat?? I ended up with a totalled bike, an injured knee that took 6 months to heal, and GET THIS, he didn’t even get a TICKET. The cop said it wasn’t worth the trouble, just let our ‘no (yo) fault’ insurance laws handle it. I still have all of my records to prove my case.

      So I guess that you are very supportive of a bill pending in the state legislature, that makes it a gross misdomeanor for those who are NOT impaired, but who still cause significant property or personal injury damage…..due to some stupid distraction, like texting or reading or some other stupid activity and not paying attention to the task at hand…..RIGHT??

    2. overreact much? says:

      Really? Any normal citizen who blew a stop sign while texting would just get a ticket and go on their merry way. They wouldn’t get thrown in jail. The trooper will be disciplined and possibly ticketed himself.

    3. Gwen says:

      Really, you get thrown in jail for running a stop sign or being a distracted driver…since when??? This is being blown out of proportion. These are both traffic violations, no more, no less.

  7. Ralph says:

    The penalties should be the same as if it was a DUI.

    1. Jake says:

      Then contact your state rep, and urge them to pass the new law, which is pending.

      Enough of the stupid ‘no fault’ excuses when it comes to idiotic driving when it results in serious property damage or personal injury. Everybody keeps emphasizing how much damage that drunk drivers do, even though they are responsible for less than 40% of road fatalities, but everybody else gets a PASS.
      Does anybody see anything wrong with this ‘analysis’? Since most of the fatalities do NOT involve an ‘impaired’ driver, who should KNOW BETTER, why do these ‘unimpaired’ drivers get a ‘pass’?

    2. Gwen says:

      If you think distracted driving and or running a stop sign should carry the same penalty as a DUI then talk to your legislators and get the law changed. Distracted driving and running a stop sign are traffic violations, nothing more and nothing less.

  8. angus says:

    He was wrong but perhaps he felt he had to get back on the road due to a shortage of troopers to patrol. A few years ago I inquired what was the authorized number of the state patrol. If I remember correctly it was 545. During the reign of Timmy the Twerp I again inquired and was told there was not an authorized number of state troopers.

    Gee, that way no one could accuse Timmy of understaffing the state troopers.

  9. snake eyes says:

    He’s not the first law enforcement officer to do this, but, this officer should face the same charges as a civilian..
    He’s just lucky he didn’t kill anyone..

  10. tpc says:

    This has to be Obama’s fault…it just has to be. Right?

  11. Linda says:

    Wow, karma was a b$#@% there. Thank God the couple is alright.

    1. Gwen says:

      Thank God the State Trooper is OK. They put their lives on the line everyday for us. Give him a break!

  12. Gwen says:

    State troopers put their lives on the line everyday for all of us. I can’t believe anyone would expect that they should be treated any different than you or I if we violated a traffic law. This is not a criminal act, it is a traffic violation and should be treated as such. It was an accident and could have happened to anyone. Thank God that both the State Trooper and the couple are OK. Everyone who was so quick to condemn this state trooper has also been a distracted driver on more than one occasion, they just got lucky and didn’t have an accident, and have it broadcast on the news.

  13. Rex Conley says:

    Don’t you love how everyone wants to make an “example” of those who have dedicated their lives to serving and protecting? He made a mistake. It’s called an accident. While there will be consequences, I fail to understand the “pack” mentality of gang up and throw the book at him. Having been “at fault” myself, nearly 10 years ago, I can tell you it is the most sickening feeling in the world to be involved in an accident. The post traumatic stress that I have struggled with, knowing I was at fault and caused an accident (thankfully no serious injuries) AND knowing my babies were in the car with me, has haunted me. For those of you who are willing to condemn so quickly….I’d like to install a little camera in your cars for a week or two. Dollar to a dime says you’ve just been lucky and I’d be willing to bet there is more than one hypocrit ready to throw the book at the trooper. Be careful of those “glass cars” you drive folks. A stone might just fly up off your pretty little bumper and crack your perfect driving record.