There's a large segment of our population that wasn't alive when there were no cellphones. Cellphones began to be popular in the 1980s and it's estimated today that 95 percent of Americans have a cellphone. And it's estimated that 77 percent have smartphones, up from only 35 percent in 2011.
So it's understandable that many U.S. citizens are used to using a cellphone while driving, although many have switched to some kind of hands-free system in the last decade. It's become a part of our way of life, right or wrong. Years ago I would never have pictured myself using a cellphone while driving. I have, though, and so do a huge percentage of drivers in our country.
But the insanity of texting while driving during the proliferation of cellphone use in America should never have happened. It's illegal in Minnesota, 46 other states and the District of Columbia. Yet it goes on and on and on - on city streets, rural roads and freeways. And it's led to many accidents and fatalities, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) saying there were 27 deaths and 178 people injured by distracted-driving events in 2018. Texting-while-driving citations in Minnesota have risen from 2,177 in 2013 to 9,545 in 2018. DPS figures show that cellphones or electronic devices were factors in one in five serious injuries or deaths caused by distracted driving in 2016 and 2017.
And now, as of Friday morning, a law signed by Gov. Walz bans the use of hand-held cellphones while driving, the Minnesota Senate passing the bill by a 48-12 vote after the Minnesota House passed the bill earlier in the week. And it's said the Legislature is also looking at increased penalties for texting while driving. Under the new law, effective Aug. 1, the fine for using a hand-held cellphone will be $50 for the first offense and $275 after that.
Does that bill go too far? Anyone whose friends or relatives were involved in a crash involving death or injuries because of someone texting and driving would likely say no, the bill isn't too restrictive. Most would likely say, in fact, that such a bill should have become law a long time ago.
There is the thought from some, though, that talking on a cellphone is no different than talking to a passenger in the car, or eating while driving (a large percentage of us do that), adjusting the radio or the heating/A/C system, or yelling at the kids in the back seat. And the bill passed this week won't eliminate all distracted driving.
One Minnesota legislator, Rep. Eric Lucero of Dayton, thinks the bill discriminates against drivers who own older vehicles without hands-free capability. "I think it's profoundly unfair," Lucero said in a recent MPR News story, "that we're going to treat people that drive newer vehicles and can perhaps afford newer vehicles differently and with a greater privilege than those that drive lesser-valued vehicles."
He has a point. How many drivers don't have the capability of conducting hands-free calls? There are hands-free cellphone kits available, some relatively cheap and some more expensive, that will likely become a part of many people's lives, thus helping the bottom line of companies like Amazon.
The other side of the coin is that we don't need to talk on the phone while driving, although it's become such a way of life for many.
Minnesotans how have 110 days to get used to not talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving. But it could be 1,000 days and it wouldn't be enough for some who routinely talk incessantly on the phone while they're driving
The bottom line is that the new law, if followed by most, will make the roads safer. It'll take some getting used to but it's a good thing in the long run.
There are many items on my list, including new section assignments by the Minnesota State High School League, but not enough time this week. One worth mentioning is that 2015 PHS grad Sam Archer pitched an eight-inning (extra innings) six-hit 2-0 shutout over St. John's for Gustavus Adolphus last week, besting Jake Dickmeyer, the MIAC's pitcher of the year in 2018. It was the second straight complete-game shutout for Archer. Archer is the starting catcher and leads the 12-8 Gusties in RBIs with 16. Teammate Damon Rademacher, a 2017 PHS grad, is the team's closer and has a 1.69 ERA in 16 innings, with 19 strikeouts, only one walk, 4 saves and a 2-0 record.
PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES
April 16, 1959 - Dick Young, a graduate of Princeton High School the previous spring, was one of the men listed on the roster of the football team at Concordia College in Moorhead.
April 16, 1964 - Marvin Top won the high jumpat the Outstate Meet at the University of Minnesota with a meet record jump of 6' 2 1/2". Steve Lindell tied for fifth in the high jump. (Top went on to compete for the University of Minnesota and jumped 6'9" for a key point as the Gophers won the Big Ten meet.)
April 16, 1969 - No PHS teams had opened the season yet but the track team had a practice meet at home against St. Francis and won every event, while the baseball team won two five-inning scrimmages at Annandale. Teacher Pete Finelli, once a minor league pitcher, was handling the pitchers for head coach Howard Solheim.
April 17, 1974 - A bases-clearing triple by Mike Solheim gave Princeton a 3-0 win over Spring Lake Park. Tom Rogde pitched the first three innings and Dave Mingo the last four.
April 19, 1979 - The men's softball league was to have 13 teams, and a 16-team tournament was set for the first week in May, the first of four tournaments that season. There were no lights at that time.
April 19, 1984 - Lisa Carlson, Christy Maki and Peggy Freichels each had two hits in a 19-11 softball win over Ogilvie . . . Sophomore Ward Thompson placed in four events at the St. Francis Track Invitational and Ken Godeen and Ron Kofoed were second and third in the discus.
April 20, 1989 - Outfielder Bobbi Koelman went 8 for 8 in a softball tournament at Sauk Rapids. Princeton was 1-2, losing 23-22 to Moorhead after leading 20-6 . . . Danny Dale, Jeff Sipe and Troy Kinney were the winning pitchers as the PHS baseball team beat Chisago Lakes, Pierz and Milaca.
April 21, 1994 - Marnie DeWall got the win in a 13-1 softball victory over Pine City . . . Nicole Koskey and Sheless Davis each shot a 96 as Princeton placed third in the first-ever Princeton Golf Invitational.
April 15, 1999 - There was talk of the school district getting a fieldhouse near the high school but it didn't happen. Princeton had one of the oldest gyms in the Rum River Conference at the time . . . The boys track team tied for last in a four-team meet among conference schools but first places for PHS athletes went to Steve Gibbs in the triple jump, Perrin Werner in the shot put and the 4x200 relay team.
April 22, 2004 - Grady Milesko was second in the 200-meter dash, second in the long jump and third in the 100-meter dash at the St. Francis Invitational as the Tigers placed sixth among 14 schools. Then the Tigers were second in a a four-team meet as Nick Peltier won the pole vault and Milesko won the long jump and 100.
April 16, 2009 - The PHS baseball team lost 13-1 to Cambridge in the season opener as Nick Shodeen, T. J. Samsal and Luke Chapman had Princeton's hits . . . In a a four-team meet at Monticello Katie Loberg had Princeton's only first among the boys and girls teams, winning the high jump.
April 17, 2014 - The PHS baseball team beat Duluth Denfeld 11-1 as Sam Archer got the win and Tanner Kinney and James Hill each had two hits . . . PHS grad Jadyn Bonasera was named athlete of the week at the College of St. Scholastica after she set a school record in the discus at a Gustavus Adolphus meet. She also placed in the shot put and hammer throw.
Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has covered sports in the Princeton area for 52 years.