Ask a Trooper: Put down the phone, focus on the road

Published 9:24 am Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Law enforcement targeting distracted driving this week

Question: There are way too many other drivers on their cell phones calling or texting. Why don’t you enforce these laws? We never hear about it.

Answer: I agree that there are too many drivers that are distracted while driving. We are doing our best to enforce the laws and reduce the number of crashes on our roadways. April is distracted driving month, so law enforcement will be targeting any type of distracted driving and taking enforcement action.

Sgt. Troy Christianson Ask a Trooper Minnesota State Patrol

Sgt. Troy Christianson
Ask a Trooper
Minnesota State Patrol

Minnesota does have a law making it illegal for drivers to read/compose/send text messages and emails, or access the internet using a wireless device while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic. I believe that distracted driving, namely texting and using the internet on our phones, is a major distraction that causes many crashes. I’ve based this belief not only on my years of training and experience from several traffic stops and crashes, but also on statistics. Each year in Minnesota distracted or inattentive driving is a factor in one in four crashes, resulting in at least 70 deaths and 350 serious injuries. I believe these numbers are vastly under-reported due to law enforcement’s challenge in determining distraction as a crash factor. Driving itself is a challenging activity that involves steering, checking mirrors, signaling, maintaining safe speed, reading road signs, and more. Adding non-driving tasks behind the wheel increases the risk of a crash. Attentive driving is critical as the traffic environment can change in an instant, such as lights changing, vehicles braking quickly, changing lanes, road conditions, and pedestrians crossing or walking along the roadways.

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A recent in-depth study showed that the average person checking/ sending text messages takes their eyes off the roadway for approximately 4.6 seconds each time. At 55mph you have traveled over 370 feet in that time (the length of a football field). Ask yourself what can happen during that time and distance? Could you drift over the shoulder and hit somebody changing their flat tire? Drivers need to know the serious dangers of distracted driving and understand that texting and driving is unacceptable. The Minnesota State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies have been, and will continue to be actively involved in distracted driving campaigns throughout Minnesota.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson – Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester MN 55901-5848. (Or reach him at, Twitter: MSPPIO_SOUTH