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Extra distracted driving enforcement in effect until end of April

ST. PAUL — To increase awareness and change dangerous behaviors, law enforcement agencies across Minnesota on Monday began a month-long extra distracted driving enforcement campaign running through April 30.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) coordinates the campaign with funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The campaign includes advertising across Minnesota in support of the statewide Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety initiative.

Lost in thought, phones, changing the music, dropping something on the floor or disciplining a child in the back seat are all real distractions, and they can lead to life-changing events.

“Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution when it comes to distracted driving,” said Mike Hanson, Office of Traffic Safety director. “Start by setting a good example for your kids or anyone in the vehicle by parking the phone. And the next time you start to do something else behind the wheel that isn’t driving, remember how you feel about other motorists doing the same thing. Don’t let distracted driving wreck you. Drive smart by always paying attention behind the wheel.”

According to the DPS-OTS, more than 39,000 crashes were distracted driving-related from 2016-2020, contributing to one in nine crashes in Minnesota. In 2020, distracted driving contributed to 2,612 injuries and 29 deaths. Distracted driving contributes to 11 percent of crashes in Minnesota.

The DPS-OTS scheduled a one-week hands-free extra enforcement campaign in August 2020, highlighting the one-year anniversary of the hands-free law. During the campaign, 230 agencies reported 1,403 citations from Aug. 1-8.

Hands-free cell phone use became law on Aug. 1, 2019 in Minnesota. That means drivers can no longer hold their phone in their hand. Accessing or posting on social media, streaming videos, checking that box score or Googling information on a device while driving are all still against the law in Minnesota, even in hands-free mode.

Law enforcement cited 19,778 drivers for failing to comply with the hands-free law in 2020.

The law allows a driver to use their cell phone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and get directions, but only by voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone.

Violating the hands free law can result in a fine of $100, including court fees, for the first offense and $300 or more for any subsequent offenses. If you injure or kill someone while violating the hands-free law, you can face a felony charge of criminal vehicular operation or homicide.