Distracted Driver Awareness Month

Although EPPD officers are always on the lookout for distracted drivers, they will be extra vigilant this month as April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Throughout April, as part of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Towards Zero Deaths program, EPPD officers will join officers from Bloomington, Richfield, Edina, Hopkins and the Airport to conduct distracted driver details in those cities. The date for the Eden Prairie detail is April 17.

In Eden Prairie the number of distracted driving citations and warnings issued nearly doubled from 103 in 2015 to 205 in 2016. To date in 2017 the EPPD has issued 40 distracted driving citations and warnings. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, each year in Minnesota distracted or inattentive driving is a factor in one in four crashes resulting in at least 70 deaths and 350 serious injuries.

As a reminder, it is illegal in Minnesota for drivers to read, compose or send texts or emails, or access the web while a vehicle is moving or in traffic. This includes when a vehicle is stopped at a stoplight. In addition, it is illegal for drivers under age 18 to use a cell phone, whether hand-held or hands-free, except to call 911 in an emergency.

While phones are the most widely discussed distraction there are other ways in which drivers can become distracted including:

  • Music and other controls. Tip: pre-program favorite radio stations for easy access and arrange music in an easy-to-access spot. Adjust mirrors and heat/AC before traveling, or ask a passenger to assist.
  • Navigation. Tip: designate a passenger to serve as a co-pilot to help with directions. If driving alone, map out destinations in advance.
  • Eating and drinking. Tip: try to avoid consuming food and beverages, in particular messy foods, and be sure food and drinks are secured.
  • Children. Tip: teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle; do not underestimate how distracting it can be to tend to children while driving.

Please note: it is illegal in Minnesota to drive with listening devices (earbuds, headphones) in both ears. Having both ears covered does not allow outside sounds to reach the driver, making them less aware of their surroundings.

Using a hands-free device (earpiece, dashboard system, speakerphone) can also be dangerous and provide a false sense of security as the brain simply cannot do two “thinking” things, like driving and talking, at the same time. According to the National Safety Council, the activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by up to one-third when listening to or talking on a phone.

The EPPD would like to remind all drivers that when you are driving, your ONLY responsibility is to drive.