Texting and Driving

Driver distraction is a leading crash factor in Minnesota, accounting for around 25% of all crashes annually, according to a news release. In 2012, distracted driver-related crashes resulted in 51 deaths and 8,304 injuries, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety.

In Minnesota, it is illegal for drivers to read, compose or send text messages or emails, and access the Internet on a wireless device while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic. It also is illegal for drivers under age 18 to use a cellphone at any time, even to make or receive calls.

Driver distractions also include reaching for items, fiddling with radio, music or vehicle controls, eating and drinking, dealing with rowdy passengers and grooming.

Police gave the following tips to minimize distractions:

• Turn off cellphones or place them out of reach to avoid the urge to dial or answer a call or text. If a passenger is present, ask them to handle the calls and texts.

• Program favorite radio stations and arrange music in an easy-to-access spot. Adjust mirrors and air conditioning or heat before traveling or ask a passenger to assist.

• Designate a passenger to serve as a co-pilot to help with directions. If driving alone, map out destinations in advance, and pull over to study a map or program the GPS.

• Try to avoid food and drinks.

• 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 or receiving a call from someone driving, ask them to call back when they are not driving.