Police begin distracted driving campaign

Published 7:20 pm Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Minnesota law enforcement agencies on Monday began a three-week distracted driving enforcement wave.

The campaign, which includes the Albert Lea Police Department, Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office and more than 300 agencies across the state, runs through April 30. It includes not only texting and driving but other distracted driving behavior, including fiddling with controls for music and eating and drinking, among others.

“Take a moment and describe your loved one out loud,” said Albert Lea Police Department Lt. Jeff Strom. “Think about all of their loves, passions and accomplishments. Now think about saying those same things at your loved one’s funeral. That’s what can happen when a driver decides to take their eyes off the road, even for a split second. Let’s protect the hopes and dreams of everyone around us by putting the distractions away and focusing 100 percent of our attention on the road.”

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The campaign comes as texting citations climbed 30 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to a press release.

Distracted driving contributes to one in five crashes in Minnesota and to an average of 53 deaths and 216 serious injuries a year from 2013-17, the release states.

In addition to texting, posting on Facebook, checking that box score or Googling information on a device while driving are all against the law under Minnesota statute.

Penalties for Minnesota’s no texting law can include $50 plus court fees for a first offense and $275 plus court fees for a second or subsequent offense.

Law enforcement encourages drivers to do the following:

• Put phones down, turn them off or place them out of reach while driving.

• Pre-program radio stations and arrange music in an easy-to-access spot.

• Map out your 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.

• Speak up as passengers to stop drivers from distracted driving behavior.

The distracted driving campaign is coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety.