Distracted driving pushes texting citations trend upward during extra enforcement campaign

Minnesota--- Facetiming. Posting on Instagram. Texting. Playing chess. Watching Law and Order and Parks and Rec. These are all fine things to do unless you’re driving like the people cited for these activities under Minnesota’s texting and wireless communications law.

As law enforcement agencies discovered during the extra distracted driving enforcement campaign, too many Minnesotans are treating drive time as downtime instead of focusing on the number one task in their vehicle — driving.

As Minnesotans prepare for the new hands-free cell phone law taking effect Aug. 1, changing dangerous driving behaviors now should become a top priority.

Distracted Driving Campaign Results
•Officers, deputies and troopers cited 1,927 motorists for texting and driving during the three-week extra enforcement campaign (April 8-30), compared with 1,576 cited during last year’s two-week campaign.
•There were 2,302 seat belt citations during the three-week campaign, compared with 1,883 in 2018 (two-week campaign).
•The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) extended this year’s campaign to three weeks, compared with two weeks in 2018 and 2017, and one week in previous years. This allowed for additional education and enforcement around a dangerous behavior that is trending the wrong direction.
•More than 300 law enforcement agencies participated during the extra enforcement campaign in Minnesota from April 8 - 30. DPS-OTS coordinated the statewide effort.

Examples of Distracted Driving Stops from Law Enforcement (Shared as DPS-OTS and DPS-MSP Tweets during campaign)
•Trooper stopped a 44-year-old male in Grand Marais after spotting him watching a video while driving. Man was watching a video his wife sent him of their twins. Cited. Stop driving distracted before it stops you. #JustDrive
•What TV show could possibly be so amazing that a 32-year-old female decided watching it on her phone while driving was a good idea? Parks and Rec. Yep. Parks and Rec. Don’t worry. @BlainePoliceMN pulled her over. She was cited. #JustDrive
•Instagram + driving = bad idea. Trooper stopped a 35-year-old male on Highway 10 & Foley Boulevard for using Instagram behind the wheel. That photo can wait. #JustDrive. Extra enforcement continues through Tuesday.
•.@sppdmn stopped a 35-year-old male near Snelling/Selby. The driver admitted to playing chess on his phone. He was cited. Checkmate! Extra distracted driving enforcement continues through April 30. #JustDrive
•Is your shirt really that important? No. Trooper stopped a 21-year-old male in Duluth. Male was on Facebook sharing a photo of a shirt that he just bought. Distractions are real. Focus your attention 100% on the road. #JustDrive
•62-year-old male bus driver stopped Monday by @elkriverpolice in Anoka. Bus driver was texting while children were on board the bus. Citation issued. Distractions are real. Put them away & focus 100% on the road. #JustDrive #PayAttention #DistractedDriving #DriveTimeIsNotDownTime
•Worst idea we’ve heard all week. Trooper stopped a motorist in Grand Marais for texting while driving w/2 small children in the car. 34-year-old said he was texting to arrange a babysitter. Cited. Stop driving distracted before it stops you or someone you love. #JustDrive
•34-year-old male stopped by @SOLakePD in Shorewood. Checking emails while driving w/child in back seat. Citation issued. 300+ law enforcement agencies are on the lookout for distracted drivers through April 30. #JustDrive #PayAttention #DistractedDriving #DriveTimeIsNotDownTime
•A trooper stopped an 18-year-old on Hwy. 169 on Friday near St. Peter. Not only was she going 96 mph, she was video chatting on Facetime. She was cited for careless driving. Extra distracted driving enforcement is now on MN roads. #JustDrive #DriveTimeIsNotDownTime #PayAttention
More examples of dangerous driving behaviors during the campaign can be found online.

Citations by Agency
In the Twin Cities metro area, agencies with the most citations during the campaign included:
•Minnesota State Patrol (Oakdale) — 222
•St. Paul Police Department — 92
•Minnesota State Patrol (Golden Valley) — 89
•Dakota County Sheriff’s Office — 74
•Blaine Police Department — 50

In Greater Minnesota, agencies with the most citations during the campaign included:
•Minnesota State Patrol (Virginia) — 123
•Minnesota State Patrol (Duluth) — 83
•Minnesota State Patrol (Rochester) — 72
•Minnesota State Patrol (Detroit Lakes) — 45
•Minnesota State Patrol (St. Cloud) — 44
The list of participating agencies can be found online.

Campaign History (2016 – 2018)
•During the 2018 campaign, law enforcement agencies reported 1,576 texting and driving citations (two-week campaign).
•During the 2017 campaign, law enforcement agencies reported 1,017 texting and driving citations. This was a two-week campaign compared to one-week campaigns in previous years.
•During the 2016 campaign, law enforcement agencies reported 972 texting and driving citations.

Distracted Driving by the Numbers
•Continuing a six-year trend, texting citations climbed 30 percent from 2017 to 2018.
o2013 — 2,177
o2014 — 3,498
o2015 — 4,115
o2016 — 5,988
o2017 — 7,357
o2018 — 9,545
•Distracted driving contributes to one in five crashes in Minnesota.
•Distracted driving contributes to an average of 45 deaths and 204 life-changing injuries a year (2014 – 2018 preliminary).
•When a crash occurs in Minnesota, the driver behavior that law enforcement agencies cite most often as a contributing factor is inattention or distraction.

Distracted Driving 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.
o$50 plus court fees for a first offense.
o$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 and Join Minnesotans Driving Distracted-Free
•Cell phones — Put the phone down, turn it off or place it out of reach. Prepare for the new hands-free cell phone law taking effect Aug. 1. Visit HandsFreeMN.org for more information about the new law.
•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! Stop drivers from distracted driving behavior and offer to help with anything that takes the driver’s attention off the road.

New Hands-Free Cell Phone Law
•Minnesota’s new hands-free cell phone law takes effect on Aug. 1.
•The new 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.
•Drivers may not hold their phone in their hand.
•A driver may not use their phone at any time for video calling, video live-streaming, Snapchat, gaming, looking at video or photos stored on the phone, using non-navigation apps, reading texts and scrolling or typing on the phone.
•Hand-held phone use is allowed to obtain emergency assistance if there is an immediate threat to life and safety, or when in an authorized emergency vehicle while performing official duties.