When it comes to ways a driver can be distracted and pose a possible danger to themselves or others, cell phone distraction is the one that immediately comes to mind. But there are others: adjusting the dials on your car radio, trying to restore order in the backseat with unruly kids, lack of sleep, and gazing out at the passing landscape.
Regardless of the cause, the results can be tragic. Vijay Dixit knows this all too well.
In 2007, his then 19-year-old daughter Shreya, a dean’s list student at the University of Wisconsin, was a front seat passenger in a car coming home to Eden Prairie when the woman who was driving became distracted and crashed the car. Shreya was killed.
This Saturday, the 16th annual 5K Raksha Run/Walk & Vigil will take place at Purgatory Creek Park in Eden Prairie. The event starts at 8 a.m. with pre-race registration beforehand.
Raksha Bandhan is an Indian festival commemorating a centuries-old tradition in which a sister ties a ceremonial band on her brother’s wrist and prays for his protection and safety. A simple band, therefore, binds brothers and sisters in an inseparable bond. Much like this bond between brother and sister, the people organizing the 5K want to encourage a bond between drivers on the road by promising to drive distraction-free in order to protect each other and the community.
Dixit’s efforts have grown to be nationwide, with similar events all centered around calling attention to the issues surrounding distracted driving. In Minnesota, every year for the past 16, the sitting governor of Minnesota has signed a proclamation calling attention to distracted driving and the need to reduce it as much as possible.
An important part of the non-profit Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation is the Shreya Innovation Lab.
“In addition, youth interns of Shreya Innovation Lab will showcase EyeDA-V2, an advanced version of the device they showcased last year. It is a gamified high-tech ecosystem for total traffic safety,” said Dixit, the foundation’s chairman. “This technology may serve as the foundation for a small, economical device that can be installed in any vehicle to continually monitor for signs of driver distraction.”
The movement has grown to include sponsors such as Cargill and Federated Insurance, and partners such as the Eden Prairie Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol.
One thing Dixit is proud of is that the foundation was influential in passing stricter laws against cell phone use while driving.
It is now against the law to even have a phone in your hands while driving, even if it is not being used.
“I’m also delighted we will have participants on Saturday from across the country and even as far away as Costa Rica,” Dixit said.
For more information on the 5K event and the Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation, visit www.shreyadixit.org.
Editor’s note: Vijay Dixit, quoted in this story as the chairman of the Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation, serves as a board member of Eden Prairie Local News and is a member of their Development Committee and journalism team.
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