ST. PAUL – A young mother of two is killed while on a bike ride with her kids by a man distracted by his cell phone. A mother of a toddler who was seriously injured when a teen driver was reading a text said, “One text almost killed my son.”
These Minnesotans’ lives were changed forever by a distracted driver, and starting Monday, law enforcement will be looking to catch drivers who are focused more on their phones than on the road. The extra enforcement runs April 13 – 18.
Distracted driving is a leading factor in crashes each year in Minnesota. Law enforcement is the last line of defense when it comes to distracted driving and officers encourage anyone riding with a distracted driver to speak up.
“We all must do our part to change the behaviors of drivers who choose to text while driving,” said Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director. “Speak up, tell your friends and loved ones to put the phone down, before it’s too late.”
Eyes off the Road Equals Crash behind the Wheel
- At 55 miles per hour, texting and driving is like traveling the length of a football field without looking up.
- The result of distracted driving can be devastating as it contributes to one in four crashes, 64 deaths and 234 serious injuries each year.
- Preliminary numbers show that distraction was a factor in 16,900 crashes in 2014, resulting in 56 deaths and 165 serious injuries.
- More than 86,000 crashes were distracted driving-related from 2009 – 2013. That equals 25 percent of all crashes.
The Law in Minnesota
In Minnesota, it is illegal for drivers to read, compose or send texts and emails, and access the web while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic. That includes sitting at a stoplight or stop sign. It is also illegal for drivers with a permit or provisional driver’s license to use a cell phone while driving, except for emergencies to call 911.
Preliminary numbers show there were 3,200 citations for violating Minnesota’s texting-while-driving law in 2014. Injuring or killing a person due to texting-while-driving can result in a felony charge of criminal vehicular operation or homicide.
“You might think you are just glancing down to text a quick message, but it only takes a few seconds to drift out of your lane, crash into another car and endanger lives around you,” said Lt. Tiffani Nielson, Minnesota State Patrol. “Those few seconds can cause a chain reaction, creating a lifetime of heartache for more people than you can ever imagine.”
Make the Right Choice
- Cell phones — Put the phone down, turn it off or place it out of reach.
- 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 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
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety 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. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes – education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.
Recent OTS Activity and Statistics
- The number of DWI arrests this past St. Patrick’s Day was the lowest in the past six years, as law enforcement across the state made 94 arrests for drunk driving.
- Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2013 is a summary of traffic crashes, derived from law enforcement reports and describes how, why and where crashes occurred and who was involved.