Texting citations spike for 6th straight year

Published 8:44 am Friday, January 25, 2019

Texting and driving citations jumped 30 percent from 2017 to 2018 with 9,545 tickets written by law enforcement statewide in 2018, according to Minnesota court records.

“The citation data underscores the significant challenge we have in getting drivers to pay attention to the task of driving,” said Col. Matt Langer, Chief of the Minnesota State Patrol. “We encourage all drivers to pay attention to the task of driving, which is a full-time job.”

Since 2012, when 1,707 texting citations were issued, texting citations have increased by 459 percent.

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Preliminary reports show there were at least 27 distraction-related fatalities in 2018, compared with 25 in 2017.

In Minnesota, it’s illegal for drivers of all ages to compose, read, or send text messages or access the internet while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic, including sitting at a stoplight or stop sign. First time offenders are fined $50 plus court fees, while repeat offenders are fined $275 plus court fees for every subsequent offense.

“We shouldn’t need laws to encourage drivers to pay attention to the road,” said Mike Hanson, Office of Traffic Safety director. “The citation data is further evidence that much more needs to be done to change our driving culture. That’s why the Department of Public Safety supports laws that make our roads safer, including legislation for hands-free cell phone use behind the wheel.”

It’s also illegal for drivers under age 18 to use a cell phone, whether hand-held or hands-free, except to call 911 in an emergency.

Drivers who injure or kill someone because of texting and driving can face a felony charge of criminal vehicular operation or homicide.