When Snapchat is more important than driving

If drivers, particularly teenage drivers, are playing with their smartphones when they should be paying attention to driving, it’s not because they don’t know distracted driving is a bad idea. They’ve been told hundreds of times. They’ve simply decided that the risk to others is worth their phone enjoyment.

Surely, a 19-year-old driver in Bethel never thought she’d be the one to put someone like Laura Elena Soto Silva, 33, a mother of six, in the hospital with critical injuries.

Jordan Paulus was on Snapchat when she didn’t notice some traffic was stopped in front of her car, so she swerved and struck Silva, a road construction worker.

“The foreman told me she had no chance to move. She just got tossed,” Ryan Berg, her partner, tells the Star Tribune’s Tim Harlow. “She had a reflective vest and pants on. There was no reason not to see the stopped traffic.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the couple with medical bills and recovery costs.

She was doing well until yesterday when doctors reported an artery leading to her heart may have ruptured.

All because of a Snapchat and a driver’s deliberate refusal to accept the responsibility of driving a car.

It’s a $275 fine for texting while driving in Minnesota. The second time you’re caught. The first time? $50. Petty cash.

“In 2015, lawmakers approved tougher penalties when a driver kills or injures another person while ‘aware of and consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk’ behind the wheel. But that’s not enough,” the Star Tribune correctly pointed out in a May editorial, recognizing that the Legislature was likely to fail at doing anything more about the problem.

In an accompanying poll, 78 percent said “texting or checking Facebook while driving should be treated equal to or more severely than drunken driving. Even more, 79 percent, say it should be illegal to talk on a cellphone while driving.”

Ninety percent said they they aren’t part of the problem.

The Legislature had a chance to increase the odds of people like Laura Elena Soto Silva getting home to her kids, by passing a hands-free requirement for cellphones in cars. It chose not to.