ST. PAUL —So many distractions can make your mind wander these days, but when you are behind the wheel, it can be deadly.
To increase awareness and change dangerous behaviors, law enforcement agencies across Minnesota will begin a month-long extra distracted driving enforcement campaign starting today and running through April 30.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) coordinates the campaign with funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The campaign includes advertising across Minnesota in support of the statewide Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety initiative.
Lost in thought, phones, changing the music, dropping something on the floor or disciplining a child in the back seat are all real distractions, and they can lead to life-changing events.
“Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution when it comes to distracted driving,” said Mike Hanson, Office of Traffic Safety director. “Start by setting a good example for your kids or anyone in the vehicle by parking the phone. And the next time you start to do something else behind the wheel that isn’t driving, remember how you feel about other motorists doing the same thing. Don’t let distracted driving wreck you. Drive smart by always paying attention behind the wheel.”
Driving smart and focusing 100 percent of your attention on the road can help avoid tragedy for everyone sharing the road. Distracted driving contributes to an average of 31 deaths and 192 life-changing injuries a year (2016-2020).
Drive smart means parking the phone, setting the GPS and music before driving, keeping your eyes on the road during a conversation, not reaching down for an object on the floor, not eating messy food that could spill and take your attention off the road, and the list goes on. Drive smart simply means putting all the distractions away and focusing on the road.
Distracted Driving is Dangerous Driving
- More than 39,000 crashes were distracted driving-related from 2016-2020, contributing to one in nine crashes in Minnesota.
- In 2020, distracted driving contributed to 2,612 injuries and 29 deaths.
- Distracted driving contributes to 11 percent of crashes in Minnesota.
Campaign History (2015-2020) – A Disturbing Trend
The Office of Traffic Safety scheduled a one-week hands-free extra enforcement campaign in August 2020, highlighting the one-year anniversary of the hands-free law.
During the campaign, 230 agencies reported 1,403 citations from Aug. 1-8.
Drivers Making Dangerous Choices During the 2020 Campaign included:
- In St. Paul, a 37-year-old man admitted to playing Pokémon Go while driving.
- In Austin, police cited a driver steering with his knee, with both hands on his phone.
- In St. Paul, a 44-year-old man was cited for manipulating one phone and then picking up another phone and making a call.
- In St. Paul, police stopped a 20-year-old female twice in 20 minutes. The first time for typing an address into her GPS. The second time, the driver was changing songs on her cell phone while the phone was in a hands-free mount.
- A trooper cited a 23-year-old male south of Thief River Falls for holding his phone and calling a coworker in the vehicle ahead of him.
- In St. Paul, a 49-year-old man was cited for talking on his phone. The driver explained that he was a driving instructor and one of his students was calling him.
April Distracted Enforcement History
The following are results from the annual distracted driving extra enforcement campaign, including the number of people cited for texting and driving.
- 2019: 1,927 citations
- 2018: 1,576 citations
- 2017: 1,017 citations
- 2016: 972 citations
- 2015: 909 citations
Hands-Free is the Law
Hands-free cell phone use became law on Aug. 1, 2019 in Minnesota. That means drivers can no longer hold their phone in their hand. Accessing or posting on social media, streaming videos, checking that box score or Googling information on a device while driving are all still against the law in Minnesota, even in hands-free mode.
Law enforcement cited 19,778 drivers for failing to comply with the hands-free law in 2020.
Distracted Driving Consequences
- HANDS-FREE CELL PHONE LAW: The law allows a driver to use their cell phone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and get directions, but only by voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone. Remember, hands-free is not necessarily distraction-free.
- $100 or more including court fees for a first offense.
- $300 or more including court fees for a second and/or subsequent offense.
- If you injure or kill someone while violating the hands-free law, you can face a felony charge of criminal vehicular operation or homicide.
Drive Smart and Join Minnesotans Driving Distracted Free
- Cell phones — Park the phone by putting it down, turning it off, placing it out of reach or going hands free.
- Music and other controls — Pre-program radio stations and arrange music in an easy-to-access spot. Adjust mirrors and ventilation before traveling.
- Navigation — Map out the destination and enter the GPS route in advance.
- Eating and drinking — Avoid messy foods and secure drinks.
- Children — Teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle and model proper driving behavior.
- Passengers — Speak up to stop drivers from distracted-driving behavior and offer to help with anything that takes the driver’s attention off the road.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) comprises 10 divisions where 2,200 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.
About the Office of Traffic Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) designs, implements and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. DPS-OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program.