ST. PAUL – The chance of getting stopped for thumbs on the phone will increase as Minnesota law enforcement agencies across the state focus on distracted driving education and enforcement April 11-20. Nearly 400 Minnesota agencies are adding extra patrols during an enhanced law enforcement campaign that runs those 10 days.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety (DPS / OTS):
• There have been more than 86,000 crashes attributed to distracted driving during 2009-13, translating to 25 percent of all crashes in those five years.
• On average, distracted driving accounts for approximately 60 fatalities and 8,000 injuries annually.
• In 2013, inattention was the contributing factor in 17,598 crashes (23 percent of all crashes), 68 fatalities and 8,038 injuries.
“It’s a myth to think we can multitask behind the wheel,” said Donna Berger, DPS Office of Traffic Safety director. “The reality is distractions take our attention away from the important task of driving. It is up to every driver to eliminate distractions and share the road safely and responsibly.”
Minnesota’s “No Texting” Law
In Minnesota, it is illegal for drivers to read, compose or send texts/emails, as well as access the web on a wireless device while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic – including at a stoplight/stop sign or stopped in traffic. It also is illegal for drivers under age 18 to use a cell phone at any time.
Minnesota’s “no texting” law was enacted in August 2008 and citations have increased each year:
• 2009 – 388
• 2010 – 847
• 2011 – 1,270
• 2012 – 1,718
• 2013 – 2,189
Driver distractions go beyond texting. Daydreaming/taking mind off driving; reaching for items; manipulating radio/music/vehicle controls; eating/drinking; dealing with rowdy passengers and grooming all can be driver distractions.
Tips to Minimize Distractions
• Cell phones – Turn off cell phones or place them out of reach to avoid the urge to dial/answer or read or send a text. If a passenger is present, ask them to handle calls/texts.
• Music and other controls – Pre-program radio stations and arrange music in an easy-to-access spot. Adjust mirrors and AC/heat before traveling or ask a passenger to assist.
• Navigation – Designate a passenger to help with directions. If driving alone, map out destinations in advance and pull over to study a map or program GPS.
• Eating and drinking – Avoid foods and beverages when driving (especially messy foods) and have others’ drinks secured.
• Children – Teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle; do not underestimate how distracting it can be to tend to children while driving.
• Passengers should speak up to stop drivers from distracted driving behavior.
• If making/receiving a call to/from someone driving, ask them to call back when they are not driving.