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Crackdown on distracted drivers takes place today

A ticket for texting and driving will make you feel : - ( and chances of getting stopped for thumbs on the phone will increase as Minnesota law enforcement agencies conduct a one-day distracted driving education and enforcement effort today, April 18.

The enforcement is coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety in partnership with the State Patrol and nearly 400 city and county agencies.

Distracted driving is a leading crash factor in Minnesota, contributing to one-quarter of all crashes annually and resulting in around 70 deaths and more than 8,000 injuries each year.

"It's a myth that we can multitask behind the wheel, when the reality is distractions are dangers piled atop the important task of driving," says Donna Berger, DPS Office of Traffic Safety director. "It's up to every driver to eliminate these unnecessary distractions."

Minnesota's "No Texting" Law

In Minnesota, it is illegal for drivers to read, compose or send texts/emails, and 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 is also 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:

2008 (five months) -- 93; 2009 -- 389; 2010 -- 847; 2011 -- 1,271; 2012 -- 1,728.

DPS underscores driver distractions go beyond the texting issue: Daydreaming/taking mind off driving; reaching for items; manipulating radio/music/vehicle controls; eating/drinking; dealing with rowdy passengers; grooming and more.

2012 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Survey Results

· 48 percent of drivers say they answer incoming phone calls, and one-quarter of drivers are willing to place calls on all, most, or some trips. About half said they never place calls while driving.

· 14 percent of drivers say they compose emails/texts behind the wheel.

· Two of five young drivers were observed manipulating electronic devices while driving (doubled from 2010)

A University of Utah study reports that when texting, drivers take eyes off the road for up to 4.6 out of every 6 seconds -- like traveling the length of a football field at 55 mph hours without looking up.

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 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 help with directions. If driving alone, map out destinations in advance, and pull over to study a map or program 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.