If you text and drive, please read this

- Distracted driving kills people and it needs to stop. That’s the message from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and a group of more than 30 businesses and organizations kicking off April’s #SpeakUpMN campaign.

“An epidemic is threatening the lives of Minnesota families,” said Jeff Fetters of Federated Insurance. “That epidemic is distracted driving.”

Dumb distractions

Oct. 28, 2015 - A New Prague school bus driver walking to get his morning paper was struck and killed by a woman allegedly responding to a text.
July 21, 2015 - A driver sending Facebook messages ran a red light, killing a father and his young daughter in Sherburne County. READ MORE

Feb. 29, 2016 - A suspected distracted driver lost control of his car in Washington County, hit an embankment, went airborne and smashed into a car, killing a 22-year -old mother. READ MORE + WATCH VIDEO

"One of the hardest things to do in law enforcement is to walk up to a door and see the blood drain from a mother or father’s face," said Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Nielson. "They know what you will tell them is going to change everything. I get teary-eyed just talking about it because it is that horrible.”

The law + the penalty

It is illegal for Minnesota drivers to read, write or send a text or email while driving or stopped in traffic. It is also illegal to browse websites on your phone while driving. Oh, and it's not just digital distractions that police are looking out for - Man caught reading a novel while driving on highway in Eagan, Minn.

Drivers face a $50 fine for the first offense and a $275 fine for a repeat offense.

The stats

Distraction was a factor in nearly 17,400 crashes in 2015, resulting in 74 deaths and 174 serious injuries. During last year’s distracted driving crackdown, law enforcement cited 909 drivers for texting and driving -- a 65 percent increase over the previous year.

What you can do

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

Pick your radio station or music playlist before you put your car in gear, and adjust mirrors and climate controls before driving.

Map out your destination and enter your GPS route in advance.

Avoid messy foods and keep drinks in a secure cup holder.

Teach children the importance of good behavior in a moving car and be a model of safe 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.

April enforcement

More than 300 law enforcement agencies across Minnesota will participate in extra distracted driving enforcement from April 11 to April 17.

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