Extra distracted driving enforcement begins today

minnesota_department_of_public_safety_logoDeputies, police officers and troopers from more than 300 agencies are conducting extra distracted driving enforcement starting today and running through April 23.

The campaign is coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS). Overtime funding is provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to keep Minnesotans safe from the dangers of distraction.

The extra enforcement period has been extended to two weeks this year to specifically focus on this deadly behavior that has taken hundreds of lives and injured many more.

News conference video available

The Tikalsky family from New Prague knows all too well about the pain and suffering of losing a loved one to distracted driving.

The tragedy of Joe Tikalsky’s death from a distracted driver in 2015 stretches beyond family and friends. He was a school bus driver from New Prague, and the generations of kids who rode his bus are now left with only memories of how he touched their lives.

Law enforcement agencies across Minnesota will be conducting extra distracted driving enforcement April 10–23 to help prevent more senseless deaths like Tikalsky’s. As distracted driving incidents and citations continue to increase, Minnesota law enforcement is extending the extra enforcement period to two weeks to specifically focus on this deadly behavior.

For 17-year-old Sylvie Tikalsky and her family, her grandfather’s death is a call-to-action to get Minnesotans to realize that driving requires your full attention. “I’m living my life without my grandpa, and it’s not right when I think about what happened,” said Tikalsky. “I miss him so much, and it’s really hard to deal with every day. That’s why my family and I will do what we can to stop distracted driving.”

Sylvie and the Tikalsky family will be handing out 500 CELLslips, red storage pockets for your mobile device, to high school drivers and others with a message:  “Hands on the Wheel, Eyes on the Road:  In memory of Joe Tikalsky 10-28-15.” The goal is for drivers to place their phones inside the CELLslip, which blocks the cell phone signal.

Words in Honor of Joe

From those who rode Tikalsky’s bus come special memories —

  •  “As a kindergartener I ran to the bus every day to get the seat right behind Joe! I wanted to hear his jokes and stories and enjoy his warmth and friendship. Joe always made you feel like you were the most important person to him.”
    • “I remember when I would get on the bus and Joe would call me sweetheart because my name is Emma and ‘that always reminds me of my wife’ he would always say.”
    • “I remember when Joe would bring all the kids on bus #30 apples he picked from his apple tree. Joe was my most favorite bus driver.”

The family joined the Department of Public Safety at a news conference last Thursday to help kick off the campaign. Video of the conference with powerful statements from the family, friends, and officers can be found here.

 Extra Enforcement and Awareness during Campaign

Deputies, police officers and troopers from more than 300 agencies participate in the extra distracted driving enforcement campaign coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS). They use overtime funding provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to keep Minnesotans safe from the dangers of distraction.

“I wish I could say distracted driving may be a big problem in the rest of the country but not in Minnesota. I can’t say that because of stories like Joe and the dozens of lives that are lost each year from drivers who aren’t paying attention,” said Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director. “We live such hectic lives with appointments, activities and stress from job, school and family demands. Because of all the pressures, the right choice behind the wheel isn’t always the easiest choice, but it’s a life-saving choice. Please pay attention.”

Distracted driving by the numbers

Minnesotans need to commit to keeping their eyes on the road to reduce distractions and the heartache that can result.

Texting and driving citations continue to climb statewide.

  • 2012 — 1,707 citations
  • 2013 — 2,177 citations
  • 2014 — 3,498 citations
  • 2015 — 4,115 citations
  • 2016 — 5,988 citations

In 2015, distracted driving contributed to 7,666 injuries and 74 deaths.

When a crash occurs in Minnesota, the driver behavior that law enforcement agencies cite most often as a contributing factor is attention or distraction.

Minnesota’s “No Texting” law

In Minnesota, it is illegal for drivers to read, compose or send texts and emails, and access the web while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic. This includes sitting at a stoplight or stop sign or stopped in traffic.

It also is illegal for drivers with a permit or provisional driver’s license to use a cell phone while driving, except for emergencies to call 911.

Under Minnesota law, drivers face a $50 fine, plus court fees, for a first offense. They’ll pay an additional $225 fine (for a total of $275), plus court fees, for second and subsequent violations of the texting-while-driving law.

Make the Safe Choice

Cell phones: Put the phone down, turn it off or place it out of reach.

Music and other controls: Pre-program radio stations and arrange music in an easy-to-access spot. Adjust mirrors and ventilation before traveling.

Navigation: Map out the destination and enter the GPS route in advance.

Eating and drinking: Avoid messy foods and secure drinks.

Children: Teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle and model proper driving behavior.

Passengers: Speak up to stop drivers from distracted driving behavior and offer to help with anything that takes the driver’s attention off the road.