MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A teen walked away from a crash after admitting he was distracted while driving. State troopers hope what happened will serve as a warning to other drivers to put the phone down and keep your eyes on the road.

Police say the 17-year-old was driving on Interstate 494 in Inver Grove Heights Dec. 10 when he slammed into the back of a semi.

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Joe Pierro spends most of his days on the road, but in his 28 years driving a semi, he’s never been hit from behind like this.

“I thought, ‘Holy cow, they were coming fast,'” Pierro said.

The crash happened on 494 east of Highway 52 last week.

(credit: Minnesota State Patrol)

“Up ahead of me was a funnel of traffic going into one so I was slowing down to about 15 mph and all of a sudden I felt a jolt and kind of got a whiplash and I looked in my mirror and saw someone had ran right up under me,” Pierro said.

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When Pierro pulled over he saw the SUV crumpled, stuck underneath the trailer. The driver was crawling out, his hands cut, but was amazingly otherwise uninjured.

“I don’t think he ever hit the brakes for real. I don’t think he even saw it,” Pierro said.

The teenager admitted to State Patrol he was looking at the GPS on his phone.  According to family, this is the teen’s second distracted driving crash.

“We had 31 instances in the last five years where a teen driver that was distracted was resulting in fatality crash, so those things are concerning. We want to make sure teens are focused on the road, getting more comfortable with driving and not adding distractions,” Lt. Gordon Shank said.

Pierro hopes this crash makes drivers more alert and reminds the teen how quickly life can change.

“He’s got to put the phone down and go hands-free and realize he’s running out of good fortune,” Pierro said.

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Last year, distracted driving contributed to more than 4,238 injuries and 24 deaths. It is illegal for drivers in Minnesota to read, send texts and emails and access the web while driving.

Jennifer Mayerle