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Pay attention distracted drivers

Post Date:04/10/2017 10:46 AM

Reaching down for an item that fell on the floor. Turning around to settle the kids down, and picking up the cell phone for an incoming call. They all seem harmless until a driver with their eyes off the road leads to a crash.

Too many people are dying on Minnesota roads because drivers are not 100 percent committed to keeping their eyes on the road. In 2015, distracted driving contributed to 7,666 injuries and 74 deaths in the state.

For the first time, law enforcement across the state is extending the extra enforcement period to conduct overtime patrols for distractive driving to two weeks. Starting April 10, Carver County Sheriff’s Office will take part in the extra enforcement along with more than 300 law enforcement agencies across Minnesota. The distracted driving campaign that runs through April 23 is coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS).

“Would you run down the middle of the highway with your head down? Are you okay with others around you basically driving with their eyes closed?” asks Sgt. George Pufahl. “Now is the time to change the culture, put down the phone, tune out the distractions and speak up if you see others on the road risking the lives of other motorists. Together we can do this. We can stop distracted driving before it’s your loved one you are saying goodbye to.”

Too Many Lives Lost

Too many people are not making driving the number one priority behind the wheel. More than 86,000 crashes were distracted driving-related from 2011 – 2015, contributing to one in four crashes in Minnesota. From 2011-2015, distracted driving contributed to an average of 65 deaths and 215 life-changing injuries a year. During the 2015 distracted driving extra enforcement campaign, law enforcement cited 909 drivers for texting and driving, an 80 percent increase over the previous year.

Distracted Driving Behaviors

Posting on Facebook, checking that box score, or Googling information on a device while driving are all against the law under Minnesota’s “Use of Wireless Communications Device” statute, which is commonly referred to as the texting and driving law.

Distractions that could lead to a crash also include fiddling with controls for music, eating and drinking, children fighting or an adult passenger’s behavior.

Distracted Driving Consequences

With Minnesota’s “No Texting” law, it is illegal for drivers to read, send texts and emails, and access the web while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic. That includes sitting at a stoplight or stop sign. There is a $50 fine plus court fees for a first offense. There is a $275 fine plus court fees for a second and/or subsequent offense.  

If you injure or kill someone because of texting and driving, you can face a felony charge of criminal vehicular operation or homicide.

Do Your Part and Join Minnesotans Driving Distracted-Free:

Cell phones: Put the phone down, turn it off or place it out of reach.

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: Secure drinks and avoid messy foods.

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.

Distracted driving education is a component of Minnesota’s core traffic safety effort, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD). A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes — education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical and trauma response.