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.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
DPS comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 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
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. OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program.
OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths
(TZD) traffic safety initiative.
Recent OTS Activity and Statistics
- Extra DWI patrols for St. Patrick’s Day weekend resulted in the arrest of 495 motorists for DWI, according to preliminary reports from Minnesota law enforcement agencies.
- To-date, there have been 71 traffic deaths, three less than this time last year. OTS projects around 390 traffic deaths for 2013 – approximately five fewer fatalities that occurred in 2012.
- In a continuing effort to advance traffic safety in Minnesota, DPS awarded new federal grants totaling more than $8.5 million for regional partners to support overtime traffic safety enforcement and educational efforts through September 2014.