The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says law enforcement officers across Minnesota cited 550 people for texting while driving during a recent 10-day crackdown on distracted driving.
The enhanced enforcement campaign by more than 400 departments this month also netted nearly 1,400 citations for failing to wear a seat belt and more than 400 citations and arrests for driving with a revoked or suspended license.
Some drivers think they can multi-task, Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske told the Star Tribune.
“Anyone can see when you stop at a stop sign, light or in a traffic jams; the first thing you see is the driver pick up a phone and look at it,” Roeske said. “It’s tempting to look when that text message beeps or the phone rings. . It’s the most visible sign of distracted driving but it’s not the only one.”
Other distractions include people eating burgers, applying makeup, shaving, reading newspapers and using their laptops, Roeske said. Troopers and officers have heard all the excuses.
“‘My kids are trying to get a hold of me,’ ‘My plans have changed’ and ‘I have to look at my phone,”‘ he said.
Public safety officials said distracted driving contributed to 17,598 crashes last year, including 68 people who lost their lives and 8,038 who were injured.
Despite the danger and a law against the practice, more Minnesota drivers have been caught texting while driving every year since 2009, a year after the law was passed.
“When texting started out, it was believed to be a young person’s activity,” Roeske said. “Now it’s mainstream, all generations, all ages.”
Under the no-texting law, it’s illegal for drivers to read, compose or send texts and emails as well as access the Internet on wireless devices while a vehicle is in motion or part of traffic, including when a motorist is at a stoplight, stop sign or stopped in traffic. It’s illegal for drivers under 18 to use a cellphone at any time.
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