April is Distracted Driving Awareness month and 300 Minnesota law enforcement agencies, including a number of area counties, began a three-week extra distracted driving enforcement wave April 8, coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, distracted driving contributes to 1 in 5 crashes in Minnesota, to an average of 53 deaths and 216 serious injuries a year (2013-2017). Texting citations climbed 30 percent from 2017 to 2018.
During the 2018 distracted driving extra enforcement campaign, law enforcement cited 1,576 people texting and driving, which was increased from the previous year (2017) of 1,117 citations issued.
Distracted driving behaviors include fiddling with the controls for music, eating, drinking, children fighting and a passenger’s behavior.
Distracted driving consequences include Minnesota’s No Texting Law: It is illegal for drivers to read, send texts and emails, or access the internet while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic. Penalties for this violation include a $50 fine for a first offense and $275 for a second offense and subsequent offenses. If someone is killed or injured because of texting and driving, one can face a felony charge of criminal vehicular operation or homicide.
Distracted driving education is a component of Minnesota’s core traffic safety effort, Towards Zero Deaths, the primary goal of which 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.
DriversEd.com conducted a survey of over 1,400 drivers in the U.S. According to a 2018 Distracted Driving in America report, safety analyst Laura Adams said some of the study statistics are alarming, with 41 percent of drivers admitting to reading texts while stuck in traffic, while 11 percent said they have texted while moving in traffic.
According to the survey, additional statistics include:
Videos: A total of 8 percent of drivers admit to watching YouTube videos behind the wheel.
Social Media: A total of 18 percent of drivers admit to checking social media behind the wheel.
Alcohol: Approximately 34 percent of drivers said they are comfortable driving after having one drink. After two drinks, 19 percent stated they are comfortable driving.
Marijuana: Approximately 10 percent of drivers report that over a period of 12 months, they’ve driven after smoking or ingesting marijuana. Of those surveyed, 84 percent said driving after smoking marijuana is less dangerous than driving after drinking alcohol.
“Eight hundred people a day are injured in drunk driving accidents per year in this country,” Adams said. “Ten thousand people are killed a year, which is about 29 people per day who are killed in accidents involving a drunk driver. The numbers have come down over the past couple of decades, but they are still ridiculously high.
“What’s going on in Minnesota is that a lot of people feel that hands-free driving is the solution while talking on their cellphones,” Adams said. “Unfortunately, it is not. Study after study has shown that even talking on a hands-free device is just as dangerous because your brain is distracted.”