The family of a 15-month-old toddler who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a head-on car crash last summer in Eagan is cautiously optimistic that he will make a full recovery.

Henry Knoof underwent emergency surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain immediately following the July 17 crash at Diffley and Nichols Roads, and was put into a medically induced coma to allow the swelling to go down. For 13 days, Henry lay in pediatric intensive care in Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare hospital where things “were scary and could have gone sideways at any moment,” said Eric Palmer, the lawyer retained by the family to pursue any civil action.

Thankfully, the little guy went home on July 30. He’s taking anti-seizure medication, but otherwise is doing fine, said Palmer, who spoke for the family.

Sadly, this never had to happen.

A filed criminal complaint in October stated a 17-year-old driver was sleep-deprived and checking a text message while turning left when she collided with the vehicle Henry was riding in. The teen has been charged with a felony for criminal vehicular operation and a misdemeanor for careless driving and has a Nov. 25 date in juvenile court in Dakota County.

A study out last week found 98 percent of people agree texting while driving is dangerous. Apparently the message must not apply to them. Nearly 75 percent of motorists admit to reading or composing a text or checking phones for messages behind the wheel.

At any one moment, 660,000 drivers are using cellphones or electronic devices while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those drivers aren’t just putting themselves but all of us in peril. That fact seems to be lost in the myriad campaigns aimed at getting drivers to put their phones away while on the roads.

“They [drivers] need to be respectful of others who are on the roads with them,” Palmer said. “Whether it’s texting or drowsy driving, that poses a threat — not only to the person engaging in the behavior, but to those on the roads with them.”

Sleep deprivation

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said one in four crashes in Minnesota is a result of distracted driving. While texting seems to be the overriding factor in this crash, drowsiness was a second contributing factor. The teen had had only three hours of sleep before the wreck.

Sleepy drivers are responsible for 100,000 crashes and 1,500 deaths a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said fatigue plays a role in 21 percent of motor-vehicle crashes. Sleep-deprived drivers are less likely to perceive the risks of distracted driving, which includes texting, said Nathaniel Watson of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center in Seattle.

“It does affect judgment,” he said. “You are more irritable and it might increase reckless driving. Part of the collective responsibility we have is to be well rested when we get behind the wheel of a car. These are needless tragedies and lives are changed forever.”

Palmer said a fund to help Henry’s family cover medical bills has been set up at www.palmerlawmn.com/outreach/henry.