Editor's Note: The following is a Minneapolis Police Department press release.
Minneapolis Police Department in conjunction with Golden Valley, Crystal, New Hope, Robbinsdale, Hopkins, and University of Minnesota Police Departments will conduct extra enforcement on April 18 in an effort to reduce distracted driving. Officers are highlighting the issue during the prom and graduation season. In the last three years distracted teen drivers were involved in crashes that resulted in 25 deaths and 4,505 injuries.
Driver distraction is a leading crash factor in Minnesota, accounting for around 20 percent of all crashes annually, resulting in at least 70 deaths and 350 injuries, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety.
In Minnesota, it is illegal for drivers to read, compose or send texts/emails, and access the Web on a wireless device while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic, such as at a stoplight or stuck in traffic. It is also illegal for drivers under age 18 to use a cell phone at any time.
“Your focus behind the wheel is far more important than the text message you are sending or reading behind the wheel,” says Sgt. Rich Lee. “Drivers need to make a serious effort to recognize and limit dangerous and unnecessary distractions, and passengers need speak up to stop and prevent drivers from texting.”
Distractions cause drivers to react more slowly to traffic conditions or events, such as a vehicle stopping or pulling out in traffic. A University of Utah study reports that using a cell phone while driving, whether hands-free or hand-held, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having an alcohol-concentration level of 0.08 percent. And when texting, drivers take their eyes off the road for up to 4.6 out of every 6 seconds — equivalent to traveling the length of a football field at 55 mph hours without looking up.
Minneapolis Police Department underscores driver distractions include reaching for items, fiddling with radio/music/vehicle controls, eating/drinking, dealing with rowdy passengers, grooming and more.
Distracted driving education is a component Minnesota’s core traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD). A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes; education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.