Don't let pigs or cell phones distract you while driving

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer

Drivers using cell phones are up to eight times more likely to be involved in a crash, says AAA. But what about driving with two pigs in your lap?

It was a shock for Chisago County Sheriff's Department Deputy Sgt. Jason Foster who spotted the porcine passengers while making a traffic stop along Interstate 35 last October.

"That definitely was a first for us," said Sgt. Derek Anklan who posted the incident on the Department's Twitter account. "It certainly got a lot of chatter from the public, especially with the state of Minnesota pursuing a hands-free law."

A Chisago County Sheriff's Deputy came upon this 250 lb. pig (with a smaller pig hidden underneath) sitting on the lap of the driver of this pickup truck back in October 2018.

A bill that requires Minnesota motorists to use hands-free devices when talking on the phone while driving passed the state House on last month, saying the measure would cut down on distracted driving and save lives.

Anklan says patrol officers have seen their share of things that distract motorists—eating, texting, putting on makeup, but not transporting a 250 lb. pig sitting on the driver's lap, with her small piglet tucked under her.

According to the Minnesota law enforcement agency's website, the motorist was pulled over for a traffic stop after dispatchers received a report of a pickup truck driving erratically down the interstate.

"When I walked up to the vehicle I expected to see someone on the phone or drinking coffee, not a 250 lb. pig along with her piglet sitting on the drivers lap, leaning up against the steering wheel," said Sgt. Jason Foster.

The driver told Foster that he was relocating to the north shore and taking the pigs with him.

"It was pretty cold out and he didn't want them sitting in back. So what better place for pigs to travel than sitting on your lap driving 70-plus mpg down the interstate?" he said with a laugh. 

While obstructing the steering wheel is a violation of the law, Foster issued the driver a stern verbal warning and told him the pigs had to take a backseat.

"Whether or not they stayed in the passenger seat or not I don't know," said Foster who believes the animals were pets from the man's hobby farm. "I just hope this was the first and last time I see this in my law enforcement career."

The Chisago County Sheriff's Department reposted a tweet from October, reminding drivers to leave livestock home or in the backseat, and pay attention to driving.

The Chisago County Sheriff's Department decided to repost the October tweet to it's Facebook page recently morning in an effort to alert the public of April's Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Visitors had a field day posting puns under the photo: "You guys must be bacon this stuff up!!", "Does this mean he or she wanted a “piggy back ride?", "Emotional support animal excuse?", "Mr. Crispy Bacon was booked and released for good behavior and a dazzling smile!", and "Note to self, goats stay at home."

While finding a pig in the driver's seat may cause folks to chuckle or simply shake their heads, Anklan says the post did the job: raising awareness of dangerous driving distractions.

"Phones are the biggest distraction and we encourage motorists to keep them out of their hands the entire time," he said. "That call or checking an app can wait. It's not worth putting someone's life in danger."

Nick Jarmusz, Midwest director of public affairs for  AAA says a simple text, phone call, or even eating a sandwich while behind the wheel, can all have deadly consequences.

"Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. At 55 mph, that is equivalent to driving the entire length of a football field, blind," he said. "Drivers talking on a cellphone are up to four times as likely to be in a crash."

Although hands-free, voice-based technology still causes distractions. Drivers can be mentally distracted for as long as 27 seconds after using voice-based technology to dial, change music or send a text message. At 25 mph, drivers travel the length of nearly three football fields during this time.

“Most drivers believe that if their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel, then they are focused on the drive,” Jarmusz said. “But research proves that there are hidden dangers when using a cell phone or in-vehicle technology. Mental distractions last longer than you think and can cause a dangerous crash.”

Cell phone driving

Tips for avoiding distractions

  • Don't text and drive. Put aside electronic distractions and never use text messaging, email, video games or internet functions, including those built into the vehicle, while driving.
  • Know where you’re going. Pre-program your GPS and adjust seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before putting the car in motion.
  • Secure Items. Properly secure children and pets and store loose possessions and other items that could roll around in the car.
  • Snack Smart. Avoid messy foods that can be difficult to manage.