A Minnesota State Patrol trooper from Sauk Centre has been charged with two misdemeanors that accuse him of running a stop sign while being distracted by using a squad car laptop and crashing into a sport utility vehicle, injuring both people in the SUV.
Trooper Gregg Gerhartz faces a count of failure to drive with due care, which often is called inattentive driving, and failure to obey a traffic control device.
He was on duty in his patrol vehicle Nov. 11 when he ran a stop sign at Stearns County Road 29 and U.S. Highway 71 south of Sauk Centre.
His squad crashed into an SUV being driven on Highway 71 by Ernest Uhlenkamp, whose wife, Bernice, was in the passenger seat.
The Uhlenkamps and Gerhartz were taken to the hospital; Bernice Uhlenkamp spent several days there.
This case is helpful for a number of reasons:
– The issue isn't who the driver is or how much ability they have to drive. Distractions are distractions. You need to be driving when you are in the car.
– It points out concerns I have had with the growth of additional items in police cars. I understand the investigative ability that laptops have, but they really are no different than a TV, cell phone, or radio when it comes down to taking attention away from the road.
– Thankfully, the position of the driver didn't affect the charges brought. I respect the officers and we often have represented them after they have been hurt. However, if they are in the wrong, the system needs to treat them in the manner they do anyone else.
I hope this case is used as an educational tool in the training of other officers and a reminder to everyone that you do need to always have your attention on the road.
A founding partner with Bradshaw & Bryant, Mike Bryant has always fought to find justice for his clients—knowing that legal troubles, both personal injury and criminal, can be devastating for a family. Voted a Top 40 Personal Injury "Super Lawyer" multiple years, Mr. Bryant has also been voted one of the Top 100 Minnesota "Super Lawyers" four times.