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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
May 03, 2017
Risking Lives: Drivers Continue to Focus on Distractions Over Driving
More than 1,000 Texting Citations Issued during Two-Week Extra Enforcement Campaign

​ST. PAUL – From Snapchatting to shopping for cars while behind the wheel, more than a thousand drivers made the choice to focus on activities other than driving during the statewide extra distracted enforcement period April 10-23.

Police officers, sheriff deputies and State Patrol Troopers participated in the campaign, handing out 1,017 citations to drivers for texting while driving and 1,517 seat belt violations. 

Driving Home the Message
More than 300 agencies took part in the extra enforcement wave which lasted 14 days. There were 1,017 (72.6 per day) citations during the two-week campaign compared with 972  tickets written last year during the seven-day extra enforcement period. Overall in 2016, law enforcement cited nearly 6,000 drivers for texting while driving, a 251 percent increase in five year (2012). The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) coordinates the extra enforcement and awareness campaign to influence driving choices and prevent tragedy.

“The numbers during our two-week campaign show some people are getting the message, especially when looking at the numbers from the previous year,” said Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director. “However, one person distracted on the road is one too many. Just one person taking their eyes off the road can change their lives and the lives of others forever. Now is the time to make a commitment to put the phones down and the distractions away when behind the wheel.”

The list of citations by agency can be found online.

Traffic Stops, Stop Dangerous Behavior
Drivers choosing texting over safety jeopardize the lives of others on the road, but any potential distraction can lead to dangerous results. Violations observed included:

  • In Elk River, police stopped three juveniles for reading text messages from their parents.
  • Many stopped for Snapchatting.
  • A driver who failed to stop for a pedestrian admitted to being distracted by a chicken he was holding in his lap.
  • A trooper stopped a person near Eveleth for shopping for cars on his phone while driving.
  • A trooper near Lengby found a driver making an NBA fantasy draft list on his phone while driving.

A Family’s Plea
During a recent news conference, 17-year-old Sylvie Tikalsky tearfully spoke about her grandfather’s death caused by a distracted driver. “I miss him so much and it’s hard for me to think about him not being at my graduation next year or other family events,” said Tikalsky. “He was a family oriented person and I miss him so much. Please do not commit a crime as bad as this. Texting and driving is dangerous and you need to make the decision not to text and drive.”

Sylvie and the Tikalsky family are handing out 500 CELLslips to high school drivers and others with a message:  “Hands on the Wheel, Eyes on the Road: In memory of Joe Tikalsky 10-28-15.” The goal is for drivers to place their phones inside the CELLslip, which blocks the cell phone signal.

Disturbing Distraction Numbers
Minnesotans need to commit to keeping their eyes on the road to reduce distractions and the heartache that can result:

  • Texting and driving citations continue to climb statewide.
    • 2012 — 1,707
    • 2013 — 2,177
    • 2014 — 3,498
    • 2015 — 4,115
    • 2016 — 5,988
    • In 2015, distracted driving contributed to 7,666 injuries and 74 deaths.
    • When a crash occurs in Minnesota, the driver behavior that law enforcement agencies cite most often as a contributing factor is attention or distractio

Minnesota’s “No Texting” Law
In Minnesota, it is illegal for drivers to read, compose or send texts and emails, and go online while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic. This includes sitting at a stoplight or stop sign or stopped in traffic. It also is illegal for drivers with a permit or provisional driver’s license to use a cell phone while driving, except for emergencies to call 911. Minnesota law states drivers face a $50 fine, plus court fees, for a first offense. They’ll pay an additional $225 fine (for a total of $275), plus court fees, for second and subsequent violations of the texting-while-driving law.

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 the child seats for 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.

Recent DPS-OTS Activity and Statistics

  • Law enforcement statewide arrested 2,407 drivers for DWI during the holiday extra DWI enforcement campaign. That’s compared with 2,502 arrests during the 2015 holiday period campaign.
  • Sheriff’s deputies, police officers and troopers from more than 300 law enforcement agencies issued 4,351 seat belt citations and 166 child seat citations Oct. 14 – 30.
  • Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2015 is a summary of traffic crashes derived from law enforcement reports and describes how, why and where crashes occurred and who was involved.
  • The 2015 Minnesota Motor Vehicle Impaired Driving Facts report highlights impaired driving data in areas such as fatalities, DWIs, repeat offenders and alcohol-related crash statistics.

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