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Cops focus on distracted driving

The chance of getting stopped for thumbs on the phone will increase as Minnesota law enforcement agencies across the state focus on distracted driving education and enforcement April 11-20.

Nearly 400 Minnesota agencies are adding extra patrols during an enhanced law enforcement campaign that runs those 10 days.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety, there have been more than 86,000 crashes attributed to distracted driving during 2009-13, translating to 25 percent of all crashes in those five years. On average, distracted driving accounts for approximately 60 fatalities and 8,000 injuries annually.

In 2013, inattention was the contributing factor in 17,598 crashes (23 percent of all crashes), 68 fatalities and 8,038 injuries.

In Minnesota, it is illegal for drivers to read, compose or send texts/emails, as well as access the web on a wireless device while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic – including at a stoplight/stop sign or stopped in traffic. It also is illegal for drivers under age 18 to use a cell phone at any time.

Minnesota’s “no texting” law was enacted in August 2008 and citations have increased each year:  2009 – 388; 2010 – 847; 2011 – 1,270; 2012 – 1,718; 2013 – 2,189.

Driver distractions go beyond texting. Daydreaming/taking mind off driving; reaching for items; manipulating radio/music/vehicle controls; eating/drinking; dealing with rowdy passengers and grooming all can be driver distractions.