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Extra enforcement out next week for distracted driving

Brainerd lakes area law enforcement officers will conduct overtime patrols beginning April 11 on Minnesota roads in an effort to reduce distracted driving.

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Driver inattention or distraction was the No. 1 contributing factor in multiple vehicle crashes in 2014. More than 86,000 crashes were distracted driving-related from 2010-14, contributing to one in four crashes. BrainerdDispatch.com Illustration

Brainerd lakes area law enforcement officers will conduct overtime patrols beginning April 11 on Minnesota roads in an effort to reduce distracted driving.

More than 300 law enforcement agencies across the state will participate in the extra enforcement distracted driving campaign that runs through April 17 and is coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety.

News headlines about people losing their lives to distracted driving are becoming all too common in Minnesota.

โ€ข A New Prague school bus driver walking to get his morning paper was killed by a woman allegedly responding to a text.

โ€ข A driver sending Facebook messages ran a red light, killing a father and his young daughter in Sherburne County.

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โ€ข A 20-year-old suspected of being distracted lost control of his vehicle in Washington County, hit an embankment, went airborne and smashed into a car, killing a 22-year-year-old mother.

It's stories such as these that recently had Matt Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol, stated distracted driving feels like "a never-ending nightmare."

Too many people are not making driving the No. 1 priority when behind the wheel, stated the DPS-OTS. In a five-year period from 2010-14, 328 people lost their lives and 1,138 people suffered life-changing injuries in distracted driving-related crashes.

Driver inattention or distraction was the No. 1 contributing factor in multiple vehicle crashes in 2014. More than 86,000 crashes were distracted driving-related from 2010-14, contributing to one in four crashes.

During the 2015 distracted driving extra enforcement campaign, law enforcement cited 909 drivers for texting and driving, an 80 percent increase over the previous year.

The DPS-OTS stated posting on Facebook, checking box score or searching information on a device while driving are against the law under Minnesota's "Use of Wireless Communications Device" statute, which is commonly referred to as the texting and driving law.

Distractions could lead to a crash can also include but are not limited to music, eating and drinking, children fighting or an adult passenger's behavior.

The DPS-OTS encourages drivers to:

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โ€ข Put their phone down, turn it off or place it out of reach.

โ€ข Pre-program radio stations and arrange music in an easy-to-access spot.

โ€ข Adjust mirrors and ventilation before traveling.

โ€ข Map out the destination and enter the GPS route in advance.

โ€ข Avoid messy foods and secure drinks.

โ€ข Teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle and model proper driving behavior.

โ€ข Passengers to speak up to stop drivers from distracted driving behavior and to offer help with anything that takes the driver's attention off the road.

In Minnesota, it is illegal for drivers to read, compose or send texts and emails; and access the web while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic. This includes sitting at a stoplight or stop sign. It is also illegal for drivers with a permit or provisional driver's license to use a cellphone while driving, except for emergencies to call 911.

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Under Minnesota's enhanced law, drivers face a $275 fine, plus court fees, for second and subsequent violations of the texting while driving law.

If a motorist injures or kills someone because of texting and driving, they can face a felony charge of criminal vehicular operation or homicide.

The Brainerd Lakes Toward Zero Deaths will tweet live information regarding distracted driving citations officers hand out during the April 11-17 campaign. Follow @BrainerdLakesTZD for more information.

Distracted driving education is a component of Minnesota's core traffic safety effort, TZD. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes-education, enforcement, engineering and emergency medical and trauma response.

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