New law would ban cell phones in work zones

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Two widows testified before a Minnesota House committee Monday about the deaths of their husbands in highway work zones and the need for stricter laws.

"Craig died instantly upon impact," said Deb Carlson, before tears flooded her eyes.

"Our hearts ache forever for Ron, no matter how life changes or moves on," added Jodi Rajkowski.

Craig Carlson and Ron Rajkowski were killed in October 2011 while working on a MNDOT project on I-35 in Burnsville. A passing driver lost control, striking and killing them both.

The number of accidents in highway work zones is staggering. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, there have been 26,052 crashes in work zones over the past five years resulting in 4,017 injuries and 41 deaths.

Ron and Craig are two of those deaths, and a former colleague testified beside their widows.

"We have a pickup that nobody wants to drive because it's Ron's truck. We have an office that nobody wants to use, because it's Craig's," said Larry Hanson, safety director at Egan Companies.

State Rep. Ron Erhardt (DFL-Edina) is pushing to ban cell phone use, hands free or otherwise, in all Minnesota work zones and increase penalties for speeding.

Other lawmakers expressed a desire to ban cell phones on all Minnesota roadways, but in this short session they are being realistic.

Monday's hearing was purely informational. The bill will be taken up formally on February 26, once the 2014 legislative session begins.


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