Ask a Trooper: Many people killed because of distractions

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Ask a Trooper, By Troy Christianson

Question: Can you talk about the law that covers a driver’s ability to watch a movie, video or broadcast on a cellphone, tablet or computer while driving? What if the passenger is in possession of the device?

Answer: Minnesota state law says that a television screen shall not be installed or used in any motor vehicle where images from the screen are visible to the driver while operating the motor vehicle.

Troy Christianson

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Exceptions to the law include video screens installed in law enforcement vehicles, closed-circuit video systems used exclusively to aid driver’s visibility to the front, rear or sides of the vehicle and video screens installed as part of a vehicle control system or used in intelligent vehicle highway applications.

Each year in Minnesota, distracted or inattentive driving is a factor in one in four crashes, resulting in at least 70 deaths and 350 serious injuries. The Office of Traffic Safety estimates these numbers are vastly underreported due to law enforcement’s challenge in determining distraction as a crash factor.

The numbers show that not every driver is getting the message to be attentive while behind the wheel. Too many people are being killed and seriously injured because drivers are distracted. 

Today’s technology makes it easy to stream video and live broadcasts through your cellphone, tablet and computer. These devices reduce a driver’s ability to be 100 percent attentive to their primary task of driving, which increases their risk of crashing. Watching a movie or streaming live TV, for passengers, can help pass the time on long trips, but be sure that this is only visible to passengers.

While many motorists may perceive driving as a routine activity, attentive driving is critical. The traffic environment changes constantly, and drivers must be prepared to react.

Law enforcement is committed to reducing these preventable crashes. Please help us reduce crashes on our roadways by putting away all cellphones, tablets and computers while driving. Passengers can do their part by making sure their devices can’t be seen by the driver.

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober.  Help us drive Minnesota toward zero deaths.

A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson, Minnesota State Patrol, at 2900 48th St. NW, Rochester, MN 55901-5848; or reach him at

Troy Christianson is a sergeant with the Minnesota State Patrol.