Monticello must be the place to start big movements. It was in the 1970s that an editor of the town’s newspaper championed Minnesota’s first Don’t Smoke Day. The idea to have smokers quit for a day spread to California and eventually morphed into what’s now nationally known as the Great American Smokeout.
With the goal to get drivers to put down their phones, founder Greg LaVallee is hoping Just Drive Day has similar success.
Just Drive Day debuted three years ago in the Mississippi River town 45 miles northwest of the Twin Cities. Last year it spread to Albertville, and Saturday morning there will be distracted driving walks in Buffalo and Annandale in addition to Albertville, with the main event from 9 a.m. to noon at Monticello Middle School.
“It’s about a growing community of people calling out distracted driving for what it is: dangerous and selfish,” LaVallee said. “There is only one task we do every day that has the potential to kill somebody, and that is driving. It’s about making distracted driving socially unacceptable.”
Festivities won’t be hard to find. Just look for folks clad in bright orange T-shirts and signs with facts about the dangers of driving distracted. Participants can try texting while driving a pedal cart to experience how drivers are affected when they are distracted. There also is a walk, on which no phones are allowed.
“If we can get them to spend one hour without a cellphone, the idea is that when you hop in your car the next day, you know you don’t need to look at it,” LaVallee said. “You can survive without it.”
Just Drive Day came about after LaVallee lost his son Phillip to a distracted driver. Phillip LaVallee, who had been one of the state’s top high school distance runners and had dreams of making it to the Olympics, was on a training run in 2013 when a distracted driver crossed the centerline to the far shoulder and struck and killed the 19-year-old.
At Just Drive Day, people also are asked to sign a “Safe Driving Agreement” in which they pledge to keep their hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and mind on the task of driving.
“I don’t want anybody to go through what I had to,” LaVallee said. “It’s me being a father. I’m still his father and I do what I can for him.”
Where are lane lines on I-94?
Signs tell motorists coming off the ramp from northbound Interstate 35W to westbound Interstate 94 not to cross the double white line separating the entrance ramp from the general traffic lanes.
There’s only one problem with that, drivers have noticed. The lines have been obliterated by last summer’s construction and this year’s harsh winter. But grooves in the pavement still delineate where the double white lines are supposed to be.
“It’s still against the law to cross the double white lines even as they are wearing off,” said MnDOT spokesman David Aeikens.
Drivers have also noticed that lane markings in the general travel lane have vanished.
MnDOT typically needs temperatures of 55 degrees or above and clean roads to put down fresh paint, Aeikens said.
Warm weather arrived just in time. Crews were to have tackled the problem Sunday, so drivers should see fresh lines by the time they head to work Monday.
One other thing they will find: The ramp from westbound I-94 to 11th Street is now closed.
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