Ask a Trooper: What to expect during a traffic stop

Question: What is being done about distracted driving? It seems like it is getting worse. 

Answer: When we think of distracted driving, most of us think of someone holding a phone up to their ear or scrolling through their social media feed. But distracted driving takes a lot of different forms. When you fiddle with your car stereo, you’re taking your eyes and attention off the road. Same with cleaning up a spill from that barbecue sandwich you’re trying to eat. Setting your navigation while driving also distracts from the road, and even passengers can distract you.

From June 1 through 14, law enforcement officers all over Minnesota were putting in extra hours, looking for distracted drivers. During that time, 1,034 drivers were cited for violating the hands-free cell phone law alone. They could be facing fines of $100 or more (including court fees) for a first offense and $300 or more (also including court fees) for each subsequent offense.

The hands-free cell phone law has been in effect since Aug. 1, 2019. In the nine months after it took effect, Minnesota law enforcement officers cited 16,405 drivers for violating it. The fewer distracted drivers on Minnesota roads, the better. Distracted driving was a lead factor in crashes in 2019, contributing to 32 deaths and over 10 times as many injuries.

The truth is that no one can multi-task behind the wheel. If you’re texting while driving at 55 mph, for example, you’ll travel an entire football field before looking up.  

Please put the phone down, 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 and secure your beverage. Model proper driving behavior for your kids, and ask your passengers to help with anything that might take your attention away from the road.

With just a few adjustments, you can stay safe on the road and decrease your chances being involved in a crash.

SGT. NEIL DICKENSON is Minnesota State Patrol Public Information Officer for the state’s northeast region. Send questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues to neil.dickenson@state.mn or by mail to Minnesota State Patrol, 1131 Mesaba Ave., Duluth MN 55811. Follow Dickenson on Twitter at @MSPPIO_NE . 

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