(St. Paul, MN) – Fatalities caused by distracted driving have decreased by nearly half in the past six years as texting while driving citations have soared during that same time.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says they doled out 9,545 tickets for texting and driving, a 30 percent jump from the previous year. That number far surpasses the citations handed out in 2012; DPS says there’s been a 459 percent increase in citations during that 6-year period.

Preliminary reports indicate that there were 27 distracted driving fatalities in Minnesota in 2018.  That’s up just slightly from the 25 deaths linked to distracted driving in 2017, but down by nearly half from the 51 deaths in 2012.

2019 is off to a grim start on Minnesota roadways, according to DPS, with distracted driving responsible for two traffic deaths already.  According to data provided by officials, one of the fatal crashes involved the use of a cell phone, while the other was caused by a passenger distraction.   And not only are overall traffic fatalities in 2019 up from this same time last year (22 in 2019 compared to 13 in 2018 ), but preliminary numbers indicate that 32 percent of fatalities were pedestrians.

Extra enforcement of distracted driving will again take place on Minnesota roads in April for three full weeks, an increase from the two weeks dedicated to the campaign in 2018.

It’s illegal for Minnesota drivers to compose, read or send text messages, or access the internet while the vehicle is in motion or part of traffic – including sitting at a stoplight or stop sign.  The first offense is a $50 citation.  The second offense will strain the pocketbook a bit more, with fees of $275.

A bill requiring “hands-free” cell phone use in vehicle was recently introduced in the Minnesota legislature and has bi-partisan support.

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