Increased law enforcement patrols in Minnesota aim to combat distracted driving

Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 9:58 AM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Law enforcement agencies across Minnesota are cracking down on distracted drivers in April.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, a distracted driving situation can turn deadly in just seconds. In the past four years, more than 40,000 crashes have been caused by distracted driving in the state.

The extra patrols that drivers will see are specifically looking for distracted drivers. It’s all part of the “Toward Zero Deaths” safety campaign.

DPS said in 2021, distracted driving led to 26 traffic deaths. Minnesota adopted the “Hands-Free Law” in 2019. It prohibits drivers from holding their phones in their hands while driving. Accessing social media, streaming videos or searching for information online while driving is also against the law, even if someone’s phone is in hands-free mode.

If someone kills or injures someone while violating the hands-free law they could face criminal charges, including homicide.

“Just simply having your phone in your hand is a distraction,” MN State Patrol Sgt. Troy Christianson said. “If you look down at it. You aren’t paying attention to the vehicle slowing down or cutting in front of you. Or traffic flow. So it’s important people know the reason why we are doing these enforcement campaigns. It’s because we educate people the dangers of distracted driving, but we also need to follow it up with enforcement and hold people accountable for their actions.”

DPS said there has been improvement since the “Hands-Free Law” was adopted, and deaths have declined since 2019. However, DPS said work still needs to be done.

Christianson said a fine for a first “Hands-Free Law’ violation is about $100. The second offense is about $300. He said any violations while in a construction work zone doubles.

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