Ask a Trooper: Distracted driving causes crashes on roadways

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“ASK A TROOPER” by Sgt. Neil Dickenson of the Minnesota State Patrol

QUESTION: There are way too many other drivers on their cell phones calling or texting.  Why don’t you enforce these laws?  We never hear about it.

ANSWER:  I agree that there are too many drivers that are distracted while driving. We are doing our best to enforce the laws and reduce the number of crashes on our roadways.

Minnesota does have a law making it illegal for drivers to read/compose/send text messages and emails, or access the Internet using a wireless device while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic.

I believe that distracted driving, namely texting and using the Internet on our phones, is a major distraction that causes many crashes.  I’ve based this belief not only on my years of training and experience from several traffic stops and crashes, but also on the statistics.

Each year in Minnesota distracted or inattentive driving is a factor in one in four crashes, resulting in at least 70 deaths and 350 serious injuries.  I believe these numbers are vastly under reported due to law enforcement’s challenge in determining distraction as a crash factor.

Driving itself is a challenging activity that involves steering, checking mirrors in traffic, signaling, maintaining safe speed, reading road signs, and more.

Adding non-driving tasks behind the wheel increases the risk of a crash.  Attentive driving is critical as the traffic environment can change in an instant, such as lights changing, vehicles braking quickly, changing lanes, road conditions, and pedestrians crossing or walking along the roadways.

A recent in-depth study showed that the average person checking/or sending their phones for a text message takes their eyes off the roadway for approximately 4.6 seconds at a time.

Now at 55mph you have traveled over 370 feet in that time (well over the length of a football field.)  Ask yourself, what can happen in that time and distance? Could you drift over the shoulder and hit somebody changing their flat tire?

You can have all the laws you want, but unless the motoring public obeys them, not much will change.  We need to know the serious dangers of distracted driving and understand that texting and driving is unacceptable.  The Minnesota State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies have been, and will continue be actively involved in distracted driving campaigns throughout all of Minnesota.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Neil Dickenson – Minnesota State Patrol at 1131 Mesaba Ave Duluth, MN 55811.  (Or reach me at, [email protected])

Sgt. Neil Dickenson
Minnesota State Patrol
NE Region Public Information Officer
1131 Mesaba Ave
Duluth, MN 55811
218 302-6105 Cell 218 830-0472
[email protected]


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