Drivers eating, programming GPS devices and using telephones to talk or text take their eyes off the road about 10 percent of the time they are behind the wheel, a study from the National Institute of Health and Virginia Tech University found.

And that number may be low. Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that at any one moment 660,000 drivers are engaged with electronic devices while they motor down the road. 

In June, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety released data showing that the number of people killed in distracted driving-related crashes rose 21 percent last year when compared to 2014. Seventy-Four people deaths were reported last year.

In 2014, 3,179 people — nine a day — were killed and another 431,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In simple terms, distracted driving is a dangerous and deadly epidemic. That's the message Vijay Dixit has been spreading since 2007 after his 19-year-old daughter, Shreya, was killed in a distracted driving crash. She was a passenger in a car that went off I-94 and crashed into a bridge in Wisconsin.

Dixit, who earlier this year released the book "One Split Second: The Distracted Driving Epidemic, How it Kills and How We Can Fix It," started the eponymous Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation. The foundation will hold its 9th annual Raksha 5K Walk and Run for Distracted-free Driving Saturday at the Purgatory Creek Recreation Area, 13001 Technology Drive, Eden Prairie.

Col Matt Langer of the Minnesota State Patrol will be the keynote speaker during a vigil to remember those who have lost their lives due to driver distraction. Participants also will be asked to take a pledge to drive distraction-free.

Other attractions include exhibits from AAA Minneapolis, a distraction simulator from the Minnesota Safety Council and a peddle kart distraction test sponsored by the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety.

The event's name comes from that of an Indian called Raksha Bandhan. That festival commemorates a centuries old tradition in which a sister ties a ceremonial band on her brother’s wrist and prays for his protection and safety. The brother reciprocates with a pledge to be there for her whenever she needs him. A simple band therefore binds brothers and sisters in an inseparable bond.

"Much like this bond between brother and sister, we want to encourage a bond between drivers on the road; promising to drive distraction-free in order to protect each other and the community," the Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation's website says.

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