SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A quiet buzz; a blinking light; a push notification on the screen. These are just some of the ways phones alert you to something new to look at. Most of the time, these are but helpful little reminders to keep you up to date on messages from friends, upcoming tasks or the latest news.
However, when behind the wheel, those little reminders can become major distractions. According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving killed 2,841 people in the U.S. in 2018 alone. Of those killed, 1,730 were drivers, 605 were passengers, 400 were pedestrians and 77 were bicyclists.
According to the report published on the September 12 crash by the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was distracted while driving on the night that he struck 55-year-old Highmore resident Joseph Boever, who was walking down the shoulder of S.D. Highway 14, holding a flashlight.
The report also states Ravnsborg’s car was on the shoulder when it stuck Boever. Investigators say that due to the presence of Boever’s broken glasses inside Ravnsborg’s car, with one part in the back seat and another on the passenger floor, it appears the victim’s face came through the windshield.
Investigators also say in the recordings of the interviews released by the DPS, Ravnsborg was using his phone in the minutes leading up to the crash. At 10:20 p.m., Ravnborg unlocked his phone. At 10:24 p.m., he called 911 to report that he had hit “something.”
Here is what we know happened in the minutes between.
Investigators say Ravnsborg unlocked his phone and signed into his Yahoo email account.
Investigators say phone records show that Ravnsborg was now on Dakota Free Press, a South Dakota political blog.
Without giving an exact time, investigators say about one minute later Ravnsborg was on Real Clear Politics, a political news website.
Again, without providing an exact time, investigators say that Ravnsborg was on Just the news, a right-leaning political news site. The article Ravnsborg viewed, according to investigators, was about ‘Riding the Dragon’, a conspiracy documentary about the Biden family’s dealings with China.
Ravnsborg told investigators that he did not recognize the Just the News website, and that he was not familiar with the ‘Riding the Dragon’ article he had pulled up on his phone.
“I guess I would say I glance at headlines a lot,” said Ravnsborg during the recording. “I don’t read articles when I’m driving.”
In the recordings, investigators tell Ravnsborg that everything they are seeing seems to indicate that he was on his phone, looking at political content at the time of the accident.
Ravnsborg denies this throughout, saying at one point, “But I just wasn’t. I – I set it down. I know I did.”
Ravnsborg is charged with three 2nd degree misdemeanor offences: Operating a vehicle while using a mobile device, driving outside of his lane and careless driving.
According to information provided by the NHTSA and the University of New Orleans Medical Center, reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for approximately five seconds. They say that at 55 mph, that is equivalent to driving the distance of a football field blindfolded.
At 67 mph, the speed investigators say Ravnsborg was traveling when he hit Boever, a car would travel 163.7 yards in five seconds.
Thursday, Secretary of Public Safety Craig Price, spoke on the decision to release three hours of interviews between Ravnsborg and North Dakota investigators.
Later Thursday afternoon, a judge ruled that the Governor and Department of Public Safety can not release anymore evidence in the Ravnsborg crash investigation.
Friday morning, two documents are expected to be filed through Hyde County regarding the case.
This is a developing story. Stay with KELOLAND News on-air and online for the latest updates.