Extra distracted driving enforcement is on Minnesota roads April 1-30

Published 5:41 pm Friday, March 29, 2024

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Scrolling through social media on your cell phone. Unwrapping that delicious cheeseburger. Checking that work email that someone just sent.

Those are all fine — from the comfort of your couch. Behind the wheel? They could be deadly. That’s why law enforcement agencies and traffic safety partners are dedicating extra time in April to educate motorists, enforce the hands-free cell phone law and help stop other distracting behaviors.

Distracted driving contributed to nearly 30,000 crashes in Minnesota from 2019-2023 (preliminary figures). The distracted driving extra enforcement and awareness campaign runs April 1-30 and focuses on promoting safety and preventing tragedy.

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The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) coordinates the statewide campaign with funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It includes advertising in support of the Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety program.

“Simply put, a two-ton vehicle with a distracted driver behind the wheel can steal a life,” said OTS Director Mike Hanson. “Don’t fool yourself. You’re distracted anytime you shift your attention from driving. It can be challenging, but for everyone’s safety, focus on driving.”

Preliminary figures for Minnesota show:

• Distracted driving contributed to one in 11 crashes from 2019-2023.

• Distracted driving contributed to an average of 29 deaths and 146 life-changing injuries a year from 2019-2023.

The hands-free cell phone use law means drivers can’t hold their phone in their hand. Accessing or posting on social media, streaming videos, checking that box score or Googling information on a device while driving are against the law in Minnesota, even in hands-free mode.

Hands-free cell phone law: The law allows a driver to use their cell phone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and get directions, but only by voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone. Remember, hands-free is not necessarily distraction-free.

It can cost $100 or more including court fees for a first offense and $300 or more including court fees for a second and/or subsequent offense.

If you injure or kill someone while violating the hands-free law, you can face a felony charge of criminal vehicular operation or homicide.

Drive smart and join Minnesotans driving distraction-free:

• Cell phones — Park the phone by putting it down, activating the “Do Not Disturb” feature, silencing notifications, turning it off, placing it out of reach or going hands-free.

• 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.

Visit HandsFreeMN.org and DriveSmartMN.org for more information.