Dakota Co. To Conduct Extra Distracted Driving Enforcement Detail On Oct. 10By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A north metro police officer has quite the story to tell. He survived a major crash from a driver distracted by reaching for her drink.

It’s the job of an officer to be alert, because they know what can happen. And then it happened to him.

Officer Tony Gust was at 42nd Avenue and Boone in New Hope when a car crashed into his rear passenger side.  He quickly got out of his damaged vehicle to check on the woman who hit him.

“When I made sure she was OK that’s when it had time to sink in, ‘I’m part of this accident, I’m not just responding to this,’” Gust said. “When my vehicle came to a rest I saw just the view of her vehicle and the crushed front end and I immediately feared the worst. There’s no way a driver can be OK after something like this.”

She was safe. It’s a story of caution Officer Gust plans to tell.

“To show that I’m not just talking about the law but my personal experience with the law, I’m hopeful that I’ll reach more people,” Gust said.

More than 50 people die from distracted-driving crashes in Minnesota each year on average, and about 221 people suffer serious injuries. And cell phones aren’t the only culprit.

Mike Hanson, director of the Minnesota Office of Traffic Control, spoke Tuesday on Officer Gust’s crash. He said anything other than driving can be distracting.

“We don’t need to brush our teeth, we don’t need to put on makeup, we don’t need to eat that hamburger that’s gonna fall all over our shirt while we’re behind the wheel,” Hanson said.

Because even the smallest of distractions can have the largest of impacts. Another huge takeaway Officer Gust wants everyone to know: When you get to a stoplight or a stop sign, that’s not a safe time to check your phone or your makeup.

You need to be aware in case someone else isn’t. The DPS says one in five crashes are distracted driving-related.

The Dakota County Sheriff’s Office and partnering agencies will be conducting a one-day extra distracted driving enforcement detail from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 10. It’s to remind motorists to put their phones down, “tune out distractions and focus 100 percent on the road.”

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield