Police out in force to catch distracted driversby Alex Friedrich, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — About 400 law enforcement agencies from around the state will crack down on distracted driving starting Thursday, beefing up personnel and patrols, and watching for signs that drivers aren't focused on the road.
Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske says officers will look for all forms of distraction. That includes cell-phone use -- especially texting, the checking of e-mail or use of the Web.
"It simply takes your eyes off the road. And mentally, your brain is engaged in something other than what it should be focused on, and that's driving. It's not illegal to talk on a cell phone in Minnesota. It is illegal to text, check e-mail or surf the Internet -- even if you're stopped at a stoplight," he said.
"What we're alerted by is their driving behavior more than seeing them using a phone. We'll see a vehicle maybe drift over lane lines, or make a turn or lane change without signaling. And then as we get up closer to the person we'll see them have their head buried in their phone," Roeske said.
Drivers can talk on a cell phone in Minnesota. But it's illegal text, check e-mail or surf the Web -- even at a stoplight. Drivers under 18 or those with a probationary license can't use a phone unless it's an emergency.
From 2008 to 2010, distracted driving contributed to more than 200 deaths and almost 26,000 injuries in Minnesota, authorities say.