Attorney General Lori Swanson on Friday proposed several measures to toughen distracted driving laws in Minnesota.
Among those changes: requiring hands-free cellphone use while driving, increasing penalties for texting while driving, and suspending driver's licenses of repeat offenders.
"We need to change the culture around distracted driving and make it not be OK for people to do this," Swanson said in a news release. "We should apply some of the successful drunken driving reform measures to distracted driving, which has become an epidemic on the roads."
Despite bipartisan support, efforts to toughen Minnesota's distracted driving laws stalled in the Legislature this year. Sixteen other states have banned handheld cellphone use while driving.
Swanson said her office has handled more than 15,000 driver's license revocation cases after impaired driving arrests over the past three years.
In a report released Friday, Swanson's office noted there are more than 50 deaths each year in Minnesota related to proven cases of distracted driving, although she said the actual number of deaths and injuries is likely higher.
From 2013 to 2017, 265 people were killed in Minnesota and 1,080 suffered serious injuries in distracted-driving crashes, the report says. One in five crashes resulting in death or serious injury during that period was caused by distracted driving.
In 2017, drivers between the ages of 16 and 29 represented 22 percent of all drivers but 47 percent of texting-while-driving charges; drivers ages 30 to 49 represented 33 percent of drivers and 42 percent of texting-while-driving charges, the report said.