Advocates call for passage of stronger hands-free cell phone use requirement
One-fourth of crashes involve distracted driving

ST. PAUL, Minn. (February 22, 2018) — A broad coalition of advocates, including victims' families, attending a Minnesota State Capitol rally today called for passage of legislation that would limit drivers' cell phone use. Two bills addressing the issue are before the Minnesota legislature this session.

"We all know cell phone use is a distraction. We see it every day as we drive on our roads. There is also growing evidence that hands-free cell phone use requirements prevent crashes," said Paul Aasen, president of the Minnesota Safety Council. "It's time to take action that will make our roads safer and reduce preventable injuries and deaths."

Bob Johnson, president of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, noted that surveys show 80 percent of Minnesotans favor restrictions on cell phone use.

"This is an issue that also hits Minnesotans right in their pocketbooks," said Johnson. "Insurers are seeing claims costs increasing almost directly because of distracted driving and those costs get passed along in the form of higher premiums."

After losing a friend and coworker to a distracted driver, Ideal Credit Union launched an ongoing "Don't Text and Drive" awareness campaign to call attention to the dangers of distracted driving, and encourage the public to take a pledge to put the phone away when they get behind the wheel.

"It's Ideal Credit Union's goal to create awareness, engagement and more pledges throughout the upcoming years," said Brian Sherrick, Ideal Credit Union President/CEO. "We want to change behaviors and drive awareness on distracted driving, and that is why we support this important legislation."

Distracted driving fatalities are on the increase — up 18 percent between 2014-15. Today, one in four crashes and one in five traffic fatalities involve distracted driving. Distracted driving is now the fourth most common contributing factor in traffic fatalities behind speed, impairment and fatigue.

The two bills before the Minnesota Legislature this session would limit use of cell phones, allowing voice-activated or other hands-free modes while driving. Proponents say the proposed legislation will simplify enforcement of the law. Following the rally, the bills' supporters visited Minnesota Senate and House offices to urge passage of the measures.

Among the event speakers were traffic safety champions from the Minnesota Senate and House; transportation and law enforcement experts; representatives of the Governor's Office and Minnesota Department of Public Safety; and family members impacted by cell phone use-related vehicle crashes. Rally sponsors included the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, Minnesota Trucking Association, Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, Minnesotans for Safe Driving, Association of General Contractors, Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, Northstar MLS, Minnesota Association for Justice, Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Minnesota Safety Council.

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