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Distracted driving crackdown leads to citations, arrest

By Michael Stoll and the Associated Press

Six people were cited and one was arrested in Austin as police cracked down on distracted driving.

A recent two-week enforcement effort nabbed more than 1,000 people statewide for distracted driving, Minnesota Public Radio reported. Last year, more than 970 citations were issued over half that amount of time.

“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, director of the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety.

“Our main goal was to address that we are looking for people who are doing this,” said Austin Police Captain Dave McKichan.

In Austin, five people were cited for driving with suspended licenses or after revocation of their licenses. One driver was cited for texting while driving.

The one arrest involved a texting driver who was under the influence.

“You have two bad things going on there, and getting that driver off the street is good for public safety,” McKichan said.

McKichan believes that people need to adopt a mindset that not using electronics while driving is beneficial, like wearing a seatbelt.

“When you hear the text ding, it’s hard for people to not look,” he said.

It is a sentiment shared by Minnesota State Patrol Lieutenant Tiffani Nielson.

“I think a lot of people think they can kind of get into a zone, they just drive the same way every day,” she said.

The State Patrol said about 6,000 people were cited for using their phones while driving in 2016.