Distracted Driving Awareness Month brings extra enforcement
WORTHINGTON — In support of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Worthington Police Department and Nobles County Sheriff’s Office began staffing extra officers Thursday as part of the Toward Zero Deaths program.
According to Josh McCuen, the Worthington Police Department’s Toward Zero Deaths coordinator, there will be extra officers on duty after school is out — when traffic is highest — through April 20.
“Distracted driving is greatly underreported because it is hard to determine distraction as a crash factor,” McCuen said.
In 2012, 51 deaths occurred in Minnesota because of distracted driving, as well as 8,304 injuries.
“Since it is so hard to determine if distracted driving was the cause of a crash, those numbers, in reality, are probably higher,” he added.
Texting while driving is a big factor in distracted driving. Minnesota law states that reading or composing texts while driving is prohibited. Accessing the Internet from a wireless device while a vehicle is in motion or in traffic is also illegal.
“When a crash happens with alcohol involved it’s easy to test that, or if excess speed was the cause of a crash there are accident reconstructions that can determine that,” McCuen explained. “With distracted driving that is not the case, unless we find a cell phone with a half-written text message or an opened message, so we try and catch these acts before an accident occurs.”
The use of cell phones delays a driver’s reaction time as much as a blood alcohol content of .08 percent, according to McCuen.
Texting while driving, on average, takes a person’s eyes off the road for 4.6 out of six seconds.
“That equates to traveling the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour without looking up,” McCuen said.
Even though extra enforcement is on the lookout for distracted driving, officers will still be watching for seat belt usage and other traffic violations as well.
Daily Globe Reporter
Erin Trester may be reached