Family of New Prague man killed by texting driver speaks out against distracted driving

A New Prague family who lost a loved one from distracted driving is urging drivers to put down their phones behind the wheel.

Eighteen months after 79-year-old Joe Tikalsky lost life, his family still feels the pain of his loss.

“I miss him so much and it's hard to think about him not being at my graduation next year,” said Sylvie Tikalsky, Joe’s granddaughter.

Family members gathered on Tikalsy’s front lawn, steps away from where the crash occurred.

“We believe there was ten seconds to see my dad wearing this jacket,” said Greg Tikalsky, his son.

The 79-year-old, a longtime school bus driver, was killed walking to his mailbox at 7:30 a.m. in October 2015. He was hit by a woman who admitted she was texting her daughter. In August, she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four days in jail and two years of probation.

“This tragedy happened on a rural Le Sueur County road, not a busy interstate or a state highway, a rural county road,” said Le Sueur County Sheriff Dave Tietz. “Distracted driving fatalities can happen on any roadway, anywhere.”

This emotional story is how the Minnesota Department of Public Safety is kicking off their annual statewide distracted driving crackdown, which officially runs from April10 to 23.

“This year we decided to move it out to two weeks, previously, we typically went about a week with distracted driving campaign, but we just keep seeing the numbers going up and up,” said Donna Berger of the Office of Traffic Safety.

300 agencies throughout the state will be using state-funded overtime to pull over anyone seen using a phone for anything other than a call.

“He was a family oriented person and I miss him so much,” said Slyvie. “Please do not commit a crime as dangerous as this. Texting and driving is dangerous and you need to make the decision not to text and drive.”