Thomas Coyer sat at a long traffic light and took a moment to read a text message. Just feet away, inside a marked squad, Sgt. Mike Glassberg of the Hopkins Police Department watched the infraction take place, then pulled Coyer over and gave him a stern warning.
"It will curb my behavior," said the Hopkins resident, who sheepishly admitted that he knew it was illegal to read texts behind the wheel. "I can wait. It's not worth getting a big ticket and having my insurance jacked up, and maybe worse."
All across the west metro and particularly along Interstate 394 and Hwy. 12, law enforcement officers from 15 agencies fanned out on Tuesday to crack down on the common practice of texting and driving. They handed out warnings and tickets and educated drivers on the dangers of being distracted while behind the wheel.
Shawn Mathews knows firsthand the dangers that can come when drivers are paying attention to their phones rather than the road. On Sept. 8, 2017, her husband, Bill, a Wayzata police officer, was on the side of Hwy. 12 at Central Avenue picking up debris when a woman allegedly on her phone and under the influence of drugs struck him, killing him instantly.
Life "did a 360" in that moment for Shawn and her 7-year-old son, Wyatt.
"It's still raw," Shawn said Tuesday at a news conference to bring awareness about a two-week distracted driving enforcement campaign that runs through April 22. "It's like entering a destination into your GPS and all it does is recalculate."
If we work together to put our phones down, she said, "we can start a ripple, a ripple that will affect lives, a ripple that will change behavior and give some meaning to the senseless loss that Wyatt and I live with every day."
Law enforcement chose the I-394 and Hwy. 12 corridor for Tuesday's detail to honor Bill Mathews, 47, who worked for the Wayzata Police Department for nine years and had been a licensed peace officer since 1998.
While some drivers were ticketed Tuesday, most were handed cards with a picture of the Mathews family and a plea to save a life by putting away the phone and challenging friends and family members to do the same.
"That is the goal," Glassberg said after he stopped and warned another driver. "I educated the guy and gave him a minute to realize he should not be on his phone."
Sgt. Rick Denneson of West Hennepin Public Safety said Tuesday's enforcement gave officers the opportunity to have one-on-one "educational seminars" with offending drivers.
Distracted driving leads to one of every five crashes and contributes to an average of 59 deaths and 223 injuries each year, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Texting citations climbed nearly 23 percent from 2016 to 2017, with 7,357 drivers ticketed last year, the DPS said.
On Tuesday, officers parked along freeway ramps and sometimes used binoculars to spot motorists texting while driving. But in most cases, binoculars were not needed. The telltale signs were there: heads down, erratic speeds, weaving.
Distracted driving is a personal issue for Wayzata Police Chief Mike Risvold, too.
"We can use this for the greater good if we can persuade one person to put down their phones and simply pay attention," he said. "That will make roads safer for Minnesotans. That is what we want to do for officer Mathews."