Ask a Trooper: Who to call when you see texting and driving
Published 9:11 pm Wednesday, February 5, 2020
Ask a Trooper by Troy Christianson
Question: My question is, if I see someone texting and they are driving in an unsafe manner (crossing in and out of their lane or going onto the shoulder) should I call 911?
Answer: Always call 911 if you see unsafe driving conduct that could result in a crash.
When calling 911, be sure your phone complies with the new hands-free cell phone law. You must use voice command, one touch operation or have a passenger make the call. Another option would be to pull off the road to a convenience store or gas station, for example, to make the call.
The dispatcher will ask routine questions, including:
• What is your location and direction of travel?
• What is the vehicle and driver description including the license plate information, make, model and color of the vehicle?
If you are following the vehicle as part of traffic, the dispatcher might keep you on the line to provide real time location updates that will help law enforcement stop the correct vehicle in a timely manner.
During the first five months of Minnesota’s hands-free law, 9,727 drivers were cited for violating the law. For those who have not gone hands-free or have slipped into old habits, now is the time to park the phone.
The Minnesota hands-free law went into effect on Aug. 1, 2019. State Patrol troopers and law enforcement officers throughout Minnesota have seen an increasing number of drivers using hands-free options such as mounts. However, some drivers that have been stopped say they are aware of the new law but are having a hard time breaking the habit.
Preliminary reports show that distracted driving contributed to more than 60,000 (one in five) crashes from 2014 to 2018 and an average of 45 deaths and 204 life-changing injuries per year during the same time period.
Of the 9,727 hands-free citations from Aug 1. through Dec. 31:
• 3,518 were drivers 16-29-years-old
• 4,520 were drivers 30-49-years-old
• 1,655 were drivers 50-75-years-old
• One age was unknown.
As part of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s mission to educate Minnesotans about the law, a new advertising campaign is underway, reminding drivers to park the phone. The campaign will run through Feb. 16.
For additional information on Minnesota’s hands-free law, visit HandsFreeMN.org.
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.
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@state.mn.us.
Troy Christianson is a sergeant with the Minnesota State Patrol.