Commemorative walk on Saturday
Gov. Tim Pawlenty's declaration of Distraction-free Driving Day on Saturday coincides with a 5K walk in Eden Prairie designed to draw attention to the dangers of distracted driving.
The walk commemorates Shreya Dixit, a 19-year-old Eden Prairie resident who was killed in a 2007 distracted-driving crash.
Dixit was a passenger in the front seat, heading home to Minnesota from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with three other students. The driver of the car turned away from the wheel for just a few seconds to grab a napkin from the back seat. Her distraction caused the car to slam into a concrete pylon on I-94, killing Dixit. Everyone else in the car survived the accident.
Her parents, Vijay and Rekha Dixit, have channeled their grief into a campaign to end distracted driving. They created the Shreya Dixit Foundation. Through it, they sponsor an annual 5K walk (this is its second year) to raise funds for scholarships for inner-city school students to enroll in driver education classes. They also are raising money to provide schools with curricula that teaches students about the dangers of distracted driving.
"We would like everyone to be very responsible," says father Vijay Dixit. "That iPod, that cell call, that texting can wait. A 15-second wait won't kill you. But 15 seconds of distracted driving will."
Vijay and his wife were born in India and are Hindu. Saturday's Raksha walk honors their culture with a protection festival — a holiday in India where a sister ties a thread on her brother's hand and wishes for his protection and good will.
Dixit says each walker will receive a raksha banhan, a colorful wrist band from India used in the protection ceremony, and then he'll ask each walker to take a pledge:
"I will treat everyone driving next to me on the road as someone's son, daughter, sister, brother, wife, husband," says Dixit, reciting the pledge. "I pledge to keep my eyes on the road and not get distracted."
Dixit says his 27 year-old daughter, Neyha, will ask walkers to then tie the thread, the raksha banhan, to the person standing next to them as an expression of protecting each other's lives with distraction-free driving practices. —Marisa Helms
Raksha Walk for distraction-free driving
Saturday, Aug. 1
5K walk around Purgatory Creek Park, Eden Prairie
Event details here