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Minnesota authorities hand out nearly 1,000 texting-while-driving violations

ST. PAUL -- Officers from law enforcement agencies across Minnesota handed out 972 citations for texting while driving during an extra-enforcement campaign earlier this month.

ST. PAUL -- Officers from law enforcement agencies across Minnesota handed out 972 citations for texting while driving during an extra-enforcement campaign earlier this month.

Police officers and sheriff's deputies from more than 300 agencies, along with Minnesota State Patrol troopers, took part in the campaign from April 11-17.

The number of citations during this year's seven-day effort compares to 909 in a six-day campaign last year.

"Multi-tasking is often praised in our society but behind the wheel, it can be a death sentence," Donna Berger, director of the Office of Traffic Safety, said in a news release. "If you're looking down at your phone, you may not see that car suddenly stopping ahead of you. ... Please put the phone down and eliminate distractions to stay safe and stay alive."

In 2015, distracted driving contributed to 174 serious injuries and 74 deaths in Minnesota, up from 61 deaths in 2014, the Department of Public Safety reported.

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It's illegal in Minnesota for a driver to read, compose or send texts and email, or go online, while their vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic -- that includes time spent waiting at a stoplight or stopped in traffic.

A first offense in Minnesota carries a fine of $50 plus court costs. An additional $225 fine is added to that for second and subsequent violations of the state's texting-while-driving law.

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