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ST. PAUL, Minn. - More than 500 Minnesota drivers hopefully got the message.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced late Monday that 550 motorists were cited for texting while driving during a 10-day statewide crackdown on distracted driving from April 11-20.

Preliminary information gathered from law enforcement agencies across the state says the crackdown also yielded:

  • 1,394 citations for not wearing seat belts
  • 25 citations for not using child restraints
  • 417 actions (378 citations and 39 arrests) taken against driving after revocation, driving after suspension, or driving after cancellation
  • 15 DWI arrests

"The number of citations made in just those 10 days shows that far too many drivers still make poor choices behind the wheel," said Donna Berger, OTS director. "Law enforcement officers across the state will continue to enforce distracted driving laws. Drivers can and will be ticketed at any time for texting while driving, not just during an enhanced enforcement campaign."

The Office of Traffic Safety says more than 86,000 crashes were attributed to distracted driving between 2009 and 2013, accounting for between 13 and 25 percent of all crashes in those five years. On average, distracted driving accounts for approximately 60 fatalities and 8,000 injuries annually. In 2013, inattention was the contributing factor in 17,598 crashes (23 percent of all crashes), 68 fatalities and 8,038 injuries.

Driver distractions go beyond texting. Daydreaming/taking mind off driving; reaching for items; manipulating radio/music/vehicle controls; eating/drinking; dealing with rowdy passengers and grooming all can be driver distractions.

State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske says some drivers think they can multi-task. Besides texting, Roeske says drivers were distracted by shaving, applying makeup, reading newspapers, using their laptops and eating.

Tips to Minimize Distractions

  • Cell phones – Turn off cell phones or place them out of reach to avoid the urge to dial/answer or read or send a text. If a passenger is present, ask them to handle calls/texts.
  • Music and other controls – Pre-program radio stations and arrange music in an easy-to-access spot. Adjust mirrors and AC/heat before traveling or ask a passenger to assist.
  • Navigation – Designate a passenger to help with directions. If driving alone, map out destinations in advance and pull over to study a map or program GPS.
  • Eating and drinking – Avoid foods and beverages when driving (especially messy foods) and have others' drinks secured.
  • Children – Teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle; do not underestimate how distracting it can be to tend to children while driving.
  • Passengers should speak up to stop drivers from distracted driving behavior.
  • If making/receiving a call to/from someone driving, ask them to call back when they are not driving.
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