Local law enforcement will be conducting extra enforcement between April 11 and 20 in an effort to reduce distracted driving, according to the Otter Tail County Safe Communities Coalition.

Driver distraction is a leading crash factor in Minnesota, accounting for around 25 percent of all crashes annually. In 2012, distracted driver-related crashes resulted in 51 deaths and 8,304 injuries, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety reports.

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In Minnesota, it is illegal for drivers to read, compose or send texts or emails, and access the internet on a wireless device while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic, such as at a stoplight or stuck in traffic. It also is illegal for drivers under age 18 to use a cell phone at any time.

“Drivers need to make a serious effort to recognize and limit dangerous and unnecessary distractions, and passengers need speak up to stop and prevent drivers from texting,” says Jane Patrick “Your focus behind the wheel is far more important than the text message you are sending or reading behind the wheel.”

 The Safe Communities Coalition underscores driver distractions include reaching for items, fiddling with radio/music/vehicle controls, eating or drinking, dealing with rowdy passengers, grooming and more.

Distracted driving education is a component of Minnesota’s core traffic safety initiative, Toward Zero Deaths. A primary vision of the Toward Zero Deaths program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. It focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes – education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.