Police crack down on distracted drivers

Published 9:49 am Thursday, April 19, 2012

If you are reading this while driving, stop now.

State traffic safety officials and law enforcement agencies are launching a distracted driving education campaign this week anchored by increased enforcement on Thursday, April 19.

The effort, coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety, will include ramped-up patrols from nearly 400 city and county agencies, partnering with the State Patrol, according to a DPS news release.

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And according to DPS records, from 2008 through 2010 distracted driving caused 3 of 9 deaths in Mower County and accounted for 185 of 592 injuries on Mower County roads.

“Texting, of course, is the major one right now because everyone has a phone,” said Amanda Stoa, program coordinator of Mower County Safe Communities Coalition.

She added that imposing fines for distracted driving seems to be one of the better ways to curb such behavior.

In Minnesota, it is illegal for drivers to read, compose or send texts and emails, and access the Web on wireless devices while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic — even at a stoplight/stop sign or stuck in traffic. It is also illegal for drivers younger than 18 to use cell phones at any time.

“While driving may seem like a routine activity for many of us, the road environment changes constantly and demands focus at all times,” says Donna Berger, DPS Office of Traffic Safety director. “We can’t use our daily commutes to conduct other business while behind the wheel.”

Minnesota’s enacted its “no texting” law in August 2008, and citations have increased each year.

Among texting, DPS considers other distractions as: reaching for items, fiddling with radio/music/vehicle controls, eating/drinking, dealing with rowdy passengers, grooming and more.