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Editorial: Always keep your focus on the road

We recently saw a bumper sticker around the area that appeared to take aim at distracted driving with cell phones.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

We’re talking of course, about distracted driving. It’s a good time in Minnesota and Freeborn County to take a step back and consider all the distractions we encounter on the road.

Through April 23, the Albert Lea Police Department and Freeborn County Sheriff’s Department are joining forces with 300-plus state law enforcement for a campaign to reduce distracted driving.

It’s a good time for us all to take a few moments to refocus our minds on the road.

From 2011-15, distracted driving caused more than 86,000 crashes and killed an average of 65 people per year. Thousands more suffered injuries, including an average of 215 life-changing injuries per year.

In 2016, Minnesota law enforcement issued 5,988 citations for texting while driving, up from 4,115 in 2015. A citation carries a fine of $50 plus court expenses for the first offense, then $275 plus court expenses for each additional citation.

Let’s acknowledge a few things:

• We are all guilty of distracted driving in some sense.

Though many of us like to think we’re above this, most of us are guilty of texting while driving more often than we care to admit. It’s easy to slip into the habit of checking texts, looking up directions, checking your email or looking up sports scores on the road.

But it is illegal for a licensed driver to compose, read or send texts or access the internet while driving a vehicle in Minnesota. Drivers with permits or provisional driver’s licenses are not allowed to use a cellphone for anything other than emergency purposes.

• Cellphones are just one of the many distractions we encounter while driving.

Cellphones are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to distractions for drivers. The distractions are everywhere: eating while you drive, phone calls, passengers, food, your radio, what happened in your day.

The list goes on and on, but it’s important to recognize that these occur and that cellphones are an avoidable temptation.

• We tend to let our guards down in spring.   

Admit it: A little part of us loves getting to blast some tunes, roll down our windows and cruise on a sunny day without having to worry about snow and ice.

With winter gone — hopefully for good — most drivers are feeling relief, but we shouldn’t become complacent.

Road work season is slowly kicking into gear around the area, and other crews are out surveying and doing patchwork. Farmers will also soon hit the fields for spring work. Simply put, new hazards are coming to our roads and need our attention.

So we encourage you to recognize the distractions that you most fall prey to while driving and set them aside for your own and others’ safety.