Inattentive Driving

Whether I am on or off duty, the majority of drivers I observe are not paying full attention to the road and the operation of their vehicles.  In fact, based upon my observations, inattentive driving is no longer the exception but rather the rule. 

Simply put, it is illegal not to pay attention while driving.  Minnesota Statute §169.14 addresses inattentive driving in general providing: Every driver is responsible for becoming and remaining aware of the actual and potential hazards then existing on the highway and must use due care in operating a vehicle.”  Notwithstanding this requirement, crashes caused by inattentive driving are on the rise.  Drivers are routinely observed reading newspapers, reaching for objects in the back seat, turning their heads to talk to others, allowing their pets to block their vision, talking on the phone or texting, etc.   

Perhaps the biggest culprit in the current inattentive driving epidemic is the cellular phone.  To be clear, it is not illegal to talk on your cellular phone while driving if you pay attention to the road and how you drive.  However, it is illegal to use your cellular phone while driving to do a number of things many of us specifically purchase them to do such as text, e-mail and access the Internet.

Minnesota Statute §169.475 provides “no person may operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device to compose, read, or send an electronic message when the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic.  An “electronic message” includes, but is not limited to e-mail, a text message, an instant message, a command or request to access an Internet page, etc.  It does not include voice or other data transmitted as a result of making a phone call, or data transmitted automatically by a wireless communications device without direct initiation by a person.

The only time you may compose, read or send an electronic message while driving or are in traffic is when your wireless communications device is used: 1) solely in a voice-activated or other hands-free mode; 2) for making a cellular phone call; 3) for obtaining emergency assistance (to report a traffic accident, medical emergency, or serious traffic hazard, or to prevent a crime about to be committed); 4) in the reasonable belief that a person’s life or safety is in immediate danger; or 5) in an authorized emergency vehicle while in the performance of official duties.

Note that newly licensed drivers possessing a provisional license (16 years of age, held an instruction permit during the six months prior to the application for such a license, and successfully completed a course of driver education) may not operate a vehicle while communicating over, or otherwise operating, a cellular or wireless telephone, whether handheld or hands free, when the vehicle is in motion. See MN Stat. §171.055

Attentive drivers are defensive drivers - drivers who notice hazards in advance and operate their vehicle to avoid them.  It goes without saying that the more drivers are distracted, the less likely they will be to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a crash with another vehicle, person or stationary object.  If you must compose, read or send an electronic message while in your vehicle, the law is clear - pull off the road and out of traffic and come to a complete stop first.

Our goal is to keep the citizens and guests of Centerville, Circle Pines and Lexington safe.  Please help us by being an attentive driver.  Should you have any questions please contact me at the police department at 763-784-2501.  Thank you and stay safe.

Centennial Lakes Police Department - 54 North Road - Circle Pines, MN 55014
Office: 763.784.2501 - Fax: 763.784.0082 - Dispatch/911: 763.427.1212