Distracted driving still poses a serious safety threat to MN motorists

Driver distraction and inattention are factors in a sizable fraction of Minnesota accidents; limited distracted driving laws may contribute to the issue.

It's not uncommon for people in Minnetonka to squeeze more productivity out of each moment by multitasking throughout the day, even while they are behind the wheel. Unfortunately, just a moment of distraction on the part of one driver can result in serious car accidents that cause devastating injuries to passengers or other road users. Sadly, statistics indicate that, despite state texting bans, distracted driving remains a serious public safety threat in Minnesota.

An all-too-common cause of crashes

According to the Star Tribune, data from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety shows that distracted drivers caused more than 17,500 crashes in the state in 2013 alone. The same year, 63 lives were lost in distracted driving accidents.

According to Fox News, MDPS data also indicates the toll of distracted driving over the last few years has been significant. The MDPS reports the following figures on distracted driving and the related issue of driver inattention:

  • Distracted driving played a role in 25 percent of all crashes occurring from 2009 to 2013, while driver inattention was a contributing factor in 23 percent of all crashes.
  • During the same time period, 86,000 reported crashes involved distracted drivers.
  • On a yearly basis, distracted driving causes an average of 60 deaths and 8,000 injuries.
  • Driver inattention may have a comparable impact; in 2013, inattention contributed to 68 fatal accidents and caused 8,038 injuries.

Drivers in Minnesota are not permitted to text while driving, but critics contend that state laws are not strong enough to deter the behavior, according to the Star Tribune. Penalties do not escalate, so drivers can receive the same fine even after multiple offenses.

Rise of other deadly distractions

Even if drivers follow the state's texting ban, there are various other sources of distraction that can be just as harmful. The Star Tribune notes that a driver who is talking on a cellphone, whether it is handheld or hands-free, has the same accident risk as a driver with a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent. Under current state law, Minnesota drivers who are older than 18 and operating personal vehicles can use either type of phone.

In-vehicle infotainment systems may be another dangerous source of distraction. CBS News states that the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently studied the cognitive distraction drivers experience when using voice-activated technology. Researchers found that complex tasks, such as listening and responding to emails, put drivers at risk for accidents. With the number of in-vehicle systems expected to increase five times by 2018, AAA anticipates a public safety crisis.

Options for accident victims

A distracted or inattentive driver's carelessness can have life-changing impacts. Injured accident victims may be entitled to compensation, even if the responsible driver was not explicitly violating the law at the time. Anyone who has sustained serious harm because of another driver's actions should meet with an attorney to discuss seeking compensation.