Distracted driving citations have increased during the enforcement campaign

Drivers texting and others checking their bank accounts while driving are what law enforcement saw during a month-long enforcement campaign targeting distracted drivers.

In all, law enforcement said more than 5,300 drivers violated the state’s hands-free law in April, a 57% increase from last year when police conducted a similar campaign.

“The number of citations issued is disturbing, unacceptable and extremely frustrating,” said Mike Hanson, director of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Highway Traffic Safety. “Distracted driving for even a few seconds can result in serious injury or death.”

The Department of Public Safety (DPS) has determined that inattentive driving is one of the leading causes of traffic fatalities and accidents resulting in serious injuries. The agency reported that between 2019 and 2023, distracted driving was responsible for 30,000 crashes, leading to an average of 29 deaths per year and 146 life-changing injuries.

Minnesota law prohibits drivers from holding a phone or electronic device, reading or composing emails or text messages, streaming videos or accessing the Internet while behind the wheel. Drivers can single-tap their phone to make a call, send voice-activated text messages or listen to podcasts. However, multiple taps, such as dialing a phone number or entering GPS coordinates, are prohibited.

Law enforcement officials have stepped up their efforts to tackle illegal behavior. Some agencies use pickup trucks equipped with cameras to give them a higher vantage point from which they can look into vehicles and catch drivers in the act.

In Olmsted County in southeastern Minnesota, law enforcement teamed up with school crossing guards to catch five criminals.

Anoka County sheriff’s deputies did not need additional assistance; They spotted drivers who admitted to texting their mothers and checking their bank accounts. In St. Paul police stopped two drivers twice in the same day for the offense, which carries a fine of $120 for a first offense and more than $300 for subsequent offenses, plus additional court costs.

In the metropolitan area, the police from St. received the most fines. Paul (951), followed by State Patrol (450), Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office (172), Bloomington Police (122) and Edina Police (78).

In Greater Minnesota, the State Patrol issued 1,045 citations, the most of all 278 agencies that participated in the action as part of April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Hanson has one message for drivers after seeing a big jump from 3,427 tickets issued last year to 5,380 tickets issued this year: “Get rid of distractions and make the roads safer for everyone.”