Distracted driving continues to be a major issue and concern on Minnesota roads. Through April 30, state law enforcement officers, deputies and troopers are putting in extra hours, looking for distracted drivers.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, enforcement officers have caught people driving while taking selfies, eating a messy lunch while driving, getting distracted by noisy passengers, steering with their knees while holding a phone with both hands (!) and other such things that can lead to accidents and tragedy.

The reality is that it only takes seconds of distracted driving to change your life forever or even worse. A common example is if you're texting while driving at 55 mph, you'll likely travel an entire football field before looking up.

Distracted driving contributes to an average of 31 deaths per year, according to statistics from 2016 through 2020. That's why awareness and enforcement are so important: The fewer distracted drivers on Minnesota roads, the better. Distracted driving contributes to 11 percent of all crashes in Minnesota – that's over 39,000 in the last five years.

That is why the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety is coordinating the extra enforcement campaign, which is also supported by social media, media relations and advertising.  It's all part of a statewide Toward Zero Deaths traffic safety initiative.

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While I think everyone agrees that getting distracted behind the wheel is bad and it's something that should be avoided, it's easy to do and can even happen by surprise by something you see out on the road, a car noise, etc.

The best advice is to drive smart and pull over if you need to check something. Here are tips that can help.

  • Park the phone, turn it off, put it out of reach, or use a hands-free device.
  • Pre-program your radio stations and adjust your mirrors and vents before you leave.
  • Map out your destination and route in advance.
  • Avoid messy foods (sorry, barbecue lovers) and secure your drink.
  • Model proper driving behavior for your kids.
  • Ask passengers to help with anything that might take your attention away from the road.
  • Offer the same kind of help when you're a passenger, too.

You can click here to find a wealth of information, which would also be perfect to share with new or young drivers in your life.

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