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Texting While Driving is Illegal in Minnesota

Bemidji, Minn. - The Beltrami County Sheriffs Office, Bemidji Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies will be conducting extra enforcement April 11-20 in an effort to reduce distracted driving.

Driver distraction is a leading crash factor in Minnesota, accounting for around 25 percent of all crashes annually. In 2012, distracted driver-related crashes resulted in 51 deaths and 8,304 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 Internet 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 also is illegal for drivers under the age of 18 to use a cell phone at any time.

"Drivers need to make a serious effort to recognize and limit dangerous and unnecessary distractions, and passengers need to speak up to stop and prevent drivers from texting," says James Martin, Beltrami County "Towards Zero Deaths" Coordinator. "Your focus behind the wheel is far more important than the text message you are sending or reading behind the wheel."

Local law enforcement underscores driver distractions include reaching for items, fiddling with radio/music/vehicle controls, eating/drinking, dealing with rowdy passengers, grooming and more.

Tips to minimize distractions:

• Cell phones - turn off cell phones, or place them out of reach to avoid the urge to dial/answer or read or send a text. If a passenger is present, ask them to handle calls/texts.

• Music and other controls - pre-program favorite radio stations and arrange music in an easy-to-access spot. Adjust mirrors and AC/heat before traveling, or ask a passenger to assist.

• Navigation - designate a passenger to serve as a co-pilot to help with directions. If driving alone, map out destinations in advance, and pull over to study a map or program the GPS.

• Eating and drinking - try to avoid food/beverage (especially messy foods) and have drinks secured.

• Children - teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle; do not underestimate how distracting it can be to tend to children while driving.

• Passengers should speak up to stop drivers from distracted driving behavior.

• If making/receiving a call to/from someone driving, ask them to call back when they are not driving.

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.

James Martin

Beltrami County TZD Coordinator

613 Minnesota Ave NW

Bemidji, MN, 56601



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