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Ask a Trooper: Call 911 if you view unsafe driving

Questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota may be sent to Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow at 1000 Highway 10 W., Detroit Lakes, MN 56560. You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or email him at jesse.grabow@state.mn.us

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Question: My question is, if I see someone texting and they are driving in an unsafe manner (crossing in and out of their lane or going onto shoulder) should I call 911?

Answer: Absolutely call 911 if you see any unsafe driving conduct that could result in a crash.

If you’re calling 911, set up your phone in your vehicle so it will comply with the new hands-free cell phone law by using voice command or one-touch operation or have a passenger call. Another option is to pull off the road to a convenience store or gas station, for example, to make the call.

The dispatcher will ask you some routine questions, including:

  • What is your location and direction of travel?
  • What is the vehicle and driver description including the license plate information, make, model and color of the vehicle?

If you are following the vehicle as part of traffic, the dispatcher might keep you on the line to provide real-time location updates that will help law enforcement get the correct vehicle stopped in a timely manner.
During the first five months of Minnesota’s hands-free law, 9,727 drivers were cited for violating the law. For those who have not gone hands-free or have slipped into old habits, now is the time to “park the phone.”

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The Minnesota hands-free law went into effect on Aug. 1, 2019. State Patrol troopers and law enforcement officers throughout Minnesota have seen an increasing number of drivers using hands-free options such as mounts. However, some drivers who have been stopped say they know about the new law but are having a hard time breaking the habit.

Distracted driving contributed to more than 60,000 (one in five) crashes from 2014 to 2018 (preliminary). It also contributed to an average of 45 deaths and 204 life-changing injuries a year (2014-2018 preliminary).

Of the 9,727 hands-free citations from Aug 1. to Dec. 31:

  • 3,518 were drivers 16-29-years-old.
  • 4,520 were drivers 30-49-years-old.
  • 1,655 were drivers 50-75-years-old
  • One age was unknown.

As part of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s mission to educate Minnesotans about the law, a new advertising campaign is underway, reminding drivers to park the phone. The campaign will run through Feb. 16.
For additional information on Minnesota’s hands-free law, visit HandsFreeMN.org

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