Star Herald guest editorial
By the Minnesota Department of Public Safety
In a matter of seconds, a driver’s choice to take their eyes off the road can have fatal consequences.
More than 300 law enforcement agencies statewide will be conducting extra distracted driving enforcement April 9–22 to protect Minnesotans from those deadly decisions. The effort is coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS).
Sheriff’s deputies, police officers and state troopers will participate in the extra distracted driving enforcement campaign. Law enforcement uses overtime funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and distributed by DPS-OTS, to keep Minnesotans safe from the dangers of distraction.
“Enough is enough,” said Mike Hanson, Office of Traffic Safety director.
“We are such a plugged-in, always-on society that focusing only on the road while driving takes effort. But trying to multitask behind the wheel takes even more effort. If you’re trying to do two things — like drive and text, or stream or post — you’re not focused on driving. Those decisions can have severe consequences. Please pay attention, and speak up if you’re with a driver who’s distracted.”
Distracted driving is dangerous driving
•Texting citations climbed nearly 23 percent from 2016 to 2017.
•Distracted driving contributes to one in five crashes in Minnesota.
•Distracted driving contributes to an average of 59 deaths and 223 serious injuries a year (2012–2016).
During the 2017 distracted driving extra enforcement campaign, law enforcement cited 1,017 people for texting and driving. This was a two-week campaign compared to one-week campaigns in previous years.
During the 2016 campaign, 972 people were cited for texting and driving.
During the 2015 campaign, 909 people were cited for texting and driving.
Distracted driving has consequences
Minnesota’s “No Texting” law makes it 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.
The penalty is $50 plus court fees for a first offense and $275 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
Put the phone down, turn it off or place it out of reach.
Pre-program radio stations and arrange music in an easy-to-access spot. Adjust mirrors and ventilation before traveling.
Map out the destination and enter the GPS route in advance.
Avoid messy foods and secure drinks.
Teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle and model proper driving behavior.
Passengers need to speak up to stop drivers from distracted driving behavior and offer to help with anything that takes the driver’s attention off the road.