A motorist accelerates from a stop light with a cigarette in one hand, a phone in the other and no hands on the wheel. Drivers are looking down at their phones for several seconds to send or read a text message. Law enforcement officers encountered these types of distractions during the extra distracted driving enforcement campaign— distractions that risk the lives of motorists across Minnesota.
Minnesota law enforcement officers cited 909 drivers statewide for texting and driving during a six-day campaign during April. This compares to 550 drivers cited during a 10-day enforcement period last April. More than 300 law enforcement agencies across Minnesota participated in the campaign conducted by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety.
Distractions lead to unsafe driving behavior
While keeping motorists safe from those texting and driving, law enforcement also encountered a number of other distractions that led to various citations for unsafe driving, including:
- 66-year-old male weaving into oncoming traffic while reading a paper.
- 22-year-old speeding while putting on make-up.
- 38-year-old male swerving and steering with his knees while doing long-hand math on a piece of paper.
- Woman rolled through a stop sign, said she was distracted while arguing with her boyfriend.
Motorists can be ticketed when distractions cause unsafe driving behavior such as failure to signal a lane change, swerving and unsafe lane use.
“From texting and driving citations to other distractions, the distracted driving campaign reveals an alarming number of people who are putting themselves and others in harm’s way,” said Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director.
Eyes off the road equals crash behind the wheel
A young mother of two was 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.”
- At 55 mph, 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 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.
Minnesota’s “no texting” law
In Minnesota, it is illegal for drivers to read, compose or send texts and emails, as well as access the web while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic. This includes sitting at a stoplight 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.
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 Sgt. Jesse Grabow, Minnesota State Patrol. “Those few seconds can cause a chain reaction, creating a lifetime of heartache for more people than you can ever imagine.”
Growing concern – texting-while-driving citations:
- 2010 – 847
- 2011 – 1,270
- 2012 – 1,718
- 2013 – 2,189
- 2014 – 3,200
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.
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.”
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety 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 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 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.