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R U texting? Watch out on Thursday

Stepped-up enforcement of Minnesota's "no texting" law will be part of a one-day educational effort on Thursday focused on distracted driving across southeastern Minnesota.

Police and sheriff's departments will work with the Minnesota State Patrol on the effort, which is intended to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. 

Distracted driving accounts for at least 20 percent of all crashes each year, a number that the Minnesota Department of Public Safety says is likely higher because it's difficult to determine if distraction is a factor in an accident.

It is illegal in Minnesota for drivers to read or compose texts or emails or access the web on a wireless device while the vehicle is in motion or part of traffic, such as at a stoplight. It is also illegal for drivers younger than 18 and those with learning permits or provisional licenses to use a cell phone at any time. Other laws address a driver's "duty to drive with great care."

Because texting while driving is a growing concern, the state patrol routinely checks the cell phones of drivers involved in crashes to see if they had been texting around the time the crash happened, said Lt. Darren Juntunen. He said the distracted-driving crackdown is timely because warmer weather brings increased pedestrian activity, as well as bicycle and motorcycle traffic, adding to the dangers that distracted driving causes.


Drivers stopped by law enforcement officers on Thursday, for whatever reason, will be given informational fliers on distracted driving, Juntunen said.

"We want you to concentrate on the road, and concentrate on what you're doing," he said.

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