DASHCAM: New Hope, Minn. officer struck by distracted driver

- New police dash camera video released Tuesday stresses the extreme dangers of distracted driving.

It shows New Hope Police Officer Tony Gust driving through the intersection of 42nd and Boone Avenue, when a silver car runs a red light, hitting the back passenger side of his car.

The accident happened in August in New Hope, and the impact was so strong, it sent Gust’s car spinning 180 degrees, hitting another truck in the process.

“It still gets me every time seeing that and just kind of watching from another perspective, that you don't see when you're there,” Gust said.

Gust and his partner had just cleared a call that day. They were in two separate squad cars and Gust’s car entered the intersection first. His partner’s dash camera captured the crash on video. After the crash, Officer Gust immediately got out of his car to check on the other driver.

“When my vehicle came to a rest, I saw just the view of her car and the crushed front end and how severe that looked, and I just immediately feared the worst,” Gust said. 

None of the drivers were injured. 

“It wasn’t until after I had a moment to make sure she was fine and kind of relieve that initial worry, that it really sunk in that I was involved in this accident too. And that’s when I started thinking about myself, ‘Am I okay?’” Gust said.

The crash was caused by a brief moment of distraction. The driver admitted to looking down to grab a drink. By the time she looked back up, it was too late to stop.

Law enforcement says this is a reminder that distractions don’t always come from cell phones.

“Driving time is not catch-up time, it's not downtime or anything like that. It's time to pay attention and to be responsible,” said Mike Hanson, Director of the Office of Traffic Safety.

Just two weeks after Gust’s accident, he responded to another distracted driving crash at the very same intersection. He now uses his experience to show others that the dangers of distracted driving are very real.

“I’m not just speaking from the badge and the law, but speaking really from my own heart of something that I was involved in and the risk it put me through, and wanting to stress to one, not do this to someone else, but also not to do it to themselves and hurt them,” Gust said.

Over the past five years, distracted driving has contributed to one in five crashes in Minnesota, killing an average of more than 50 people a year.

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, there will be extra distracted driving enforcement in Dakota County. Local and state traffic officers will dedicate those hours to stopping drivers who are not paying attention.

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