Drivers to get message: No texting

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 21, 2011 - 4:36 PM

Law enforcement will take part Thursday in a one-day crackdown on distracted drivers as part of a statewide campaign to stress the dangers and reduce crashes.

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The Minnesota State Patrol staged a high saturation patrol detail targeting scofflaws and people who were texting while driving. They were stopping people at the intersection of 394 and 169. Trooper Todd Merwin looks over a motorist's smart phone while making a stop . He let the driver go after a warning after not being able to prove driver was texting.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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Rachel Treadway learned in health class that those who engage in text messaging while driving are eight times more likely to be in a crash than drivers who don't.

It's a message the State Patrol and 400 other law enforcement agencies want all drivers to hear, and officers will be taking it to the streets Thursday as part of a one-day crackdown on drivers who engage in behavior that puts their safety and that of others at risk.

Police will be stopping and ticketing those who read, compose or send text messages or e-mail, or surf the Web on wireless devices while driving, all illegal actions in Minnesota. But they also will be watching for motorists who are talking on their phones, eating, reading a newspaper, shaving -- and thus not paying attention to the primary task of driving.

"While those behaviors are not illegal, the driving conduct associated with them, such as drifting across lanes, is illegal," said Lt. Eric Roeske, who announced the statewide campaign Wednesday at East Ridge High School in Woodbury. Treadway and other members of the school's Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapter have held events to warn students about the dangers of distracted driving.

Just this week, an Eden Prairie woman was charged with a felony in Hennepin County District Court in connection with a head-on collision with a motorcyclist last fall that occurred as she allegedly was texting while driving. The motorcyclist was seriously injured.

According to the Department of Public Safety, driver distractions account for 20 percent of all crashes and result in 70 deaths and 350 injuries statewide each year.

Treadway, a junior, and other East Ridge students rallied Wednesday to spread the message about the dangers of texting while driving. Last week the SADD chapter staged a mock vehicle crash to illustrate the dangers of drinking and driving. The 30-member chapter plans to distribute thumb rings to classmates in the next few weeks to remind them not to text while driving, said senior Jessika Simonson., who used to text while driving but doesn't anymore.

"There's been close calls where I've said, 'Hey! Wake up! Pay attention! Drop your phone,'" said senior Ezekiel Okeleye.

Okeleye said he's never been in an accident caused by driver inattention, and he's hoping he never will be.

Tim Harlow • 651-735-1824 • Follow Tim on Twitter @timstrib University of Minnesota student Mara Van Ells contributed to this report.

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