NEW PRAGUE, Minn. (WCCO) — In 2015 in Minnesota, 7,600 people were hurt in crashes caused by distracted drivers. Seventy-four people were killed.

One of those people was 79-year-old Joe Tikalsky. He went to get his mail and was hit and killed by a woman who was texting and driving in October of 2015.

It was an accident we can all learn from.

Joe Tikalsky was a bus driver for 40 years, a beloved and trusted staple in New Prague.

“The first day of Kindergarten is hard for a parent, and when the school bus door opened up, Joe was the driver. And all of a sudden it’s gonna be okay cause it’s Joe,” Joe Deichelboher, who rode his bus, said.

He was also a husband, father and grandfather.

“He was a family-oriented person, and I miss him so much,” Sylvie Tikalsky, his granddaughter, said.

Sylvie Tikalsky is Joe’s now 17-year-old granddaughter. She wasn’t a driver at the time of his death, but she’s vowed to never text and driver. She hopes her peers will join her.

“I’m a kid, too, and I deal with the same addiction that they are. I’m glued to my phone too, I’m attached,” Sylvie Tikalsky said. “I’m not texting and driving and I’m doing it just fine.”

Law enforcement officers will be working overtime next week, looking for drivers who are distracted behind the wheel. The state says the education and enforcement campaign is to remind drivers of the dangers of distracted driving.

“I think it’s become just a normal part of people’s lives. Their drive is a normal part of their life. And they don’t think it’s gonna happen, but it absolutely takes that one split second,” Donna Berger, the director for the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, said.

Joe’s son hopes other families won’t have to go through what his has gone through.

“I can remember my dad under a blanket lying in the ditch, or I can honor his memory by tying to make changes, and one option seems a lot better than the other to me,” Greg Tikalsky said.

Minnesota does have a “No Texting Law” that makes it illegal to text, e-mail or access the web while driving. A bill banning anything but hands free cell phone use while driving went before state lawmakers this session, but didn’t go anywhere.

Kate Raddatz

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