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Office of Communications

A Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety
 

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NEWS RELEASE

Bruce Gordon, Director of Communications
CONTACT:
Scott Wasserman  651-201-7571
scott.wasserman@state.mn.us
Dave Boxum  651-201-7569
dave.boxum@state.mn.us
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 03, 2019
Keeping Hopes, Dreams and Lives Safe from Distracted Drivers
Extra Enforcement on Minnesota Roads April 8 – 30

ST. PAUL – Distracted drivers believe the myth they can multitask behind the wheel. Those killed by distracted drivers — a college student, a pregnant mother, a cross country runner — tragically dispel that myth. The list of hopes, dreams and lives taken away by distraction goes on and on, and law enforcement statewide is working to stop it.

Distracted driving-related crashes claim an average of 45 lives each year, causing a lifetime of grief and pain for the families left behind and an untold story of what could have been.

To increase awareness and change dangerous behaviors, more than 300 Minnesota law enforcement agencies will begin a three-week extra distracted driving enforcement campaign starting April 8. The distracted driving campaign, which runs through April 30, is coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety.

“Imagine how you would react if an officer knocked on your door and told you a loved one died in a car crash,” said Mike Hanson, Office of Traffic Safety director. “Too many Minnesotans don’t have to imagine, because it’s their sobering reality. Distractions are real and lead to dreams shattered and lives cut short in a second. Protect everyone around you by putting the distractions away and focusing 100 percent on the road.”

Distracted Driving is Dangerous Driving

  • Continuing a six-year trend, texting citations climbed 30 percent from 2017 to 2018.
  • Distracted driving contributes to one in five crashes in Minnesota.
  • Distracted driving contributes to an average of 45 deaths and 204 life-changing injuries a year (2014 – 2018 preliminary).
Distracted Driving
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
Texting Citations
2,177
3,498
4,115
5,988
7,357
9,545
Fatalities
68
59
72
41
24
*27
Serious Injuries
241
196
173
254
218
*178
*Preliminary Data
 

Campaign History (2015-2018) – A Disturbing Trend

  • During the 2018 distracted driving extra enforcement campaign, law enforcement cited 1,576 people for texting and driving.
  • During the 2017 distracted driving extra enforcement campaign, law enforcement cited 1,017 people for texting and driving.
  • During the 2016 distracted driving extra enforcement campaign, law enforcement cited 972 people for texting and driving.
  • During the 2015 distracted driving extra enforcement campaign, law enforcement cited 909 people for texting and driving.

Distracted Driving Behaviors

Posting on Facebook, checking that box score or Googling information on a device while driving are all against the law under Minnesota’s “Use of Wireless Communications Device” statute, which is commonly referred to as the texting and driving law.

Distractions that could lead to a crash also include adjusting music, eating and drinking, or distracting passenger behavior.

Distracted Driving Consequences

  • With Minnesota’s “No Texting” law, it’s illegal for drivers to read 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. Penalties for this violation can include:
    • $50 plus court fees for a first offense.
    • $275 plus court fees for a second and/or subsequent offense.
  • If you injure or kill someone because of texting and driving, you can face a felony charge of criminal vehicular operation or homicide.

Speak Up and Join Minnesotans Driving Distracted-Free

  • 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 (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 child seats for the needy families program.

DPS-OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) traffic safety program. 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 medical and trauma response — and everyone doing the right thing when driving.

Recent DPS-OTS Activity and Statistics

  • Texting and driving citations jumped 30 percent from 2017 to 2018 with 9,545 tickets written by law enforcement statewide in 2018, according to Minnesota court records. Since 2012, texting citations increased by 459 percent.
  • During the holiday DWI campaign that included extra enforcement from Nov. 21 – Dec. 29, officers, deputies and troopers arrested 2,757 drivers for driving impaired compared with 2,656 DWI arrests during the same period in 2017.
  • Preliminary reports show there were 380 traffic deaths on Minnesota roads in 2018, compared with 358 in 2017.

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445 Minnesota Street, Suite 100 | Saint Paul, Minnesota 55101-5155 | dps.mn.gov