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Ask a Trooper: Texting dangerous, illegal for all drivers

Q: Is there any information about texting by drivers of commercial motor vehicles? I was wondering if it's even more dangerous or costly for them than for drivers of regular vehicles.

A: According to information from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website, research shows that it is six times more likely for a commercial vehicle driver to be involved in a safety-critical event when dialing a mobile phone (including texting) than those who do not.

These drivers took their eyes off the road for an average of 3.8 seconds. At 55 mph, 80.7 feet per second, they traveled 306 feet -- a little more than the length of a football field -- without looking at the forward roadway (2009 FMCSA, Document number FMCSA-RRR-09-042).

Penalties for conviction of this offense will be commercial driver's license disqualification: 60 days for a second offense within three years, and 120 days for three or more offenses within three years. In addition, the first and each subsequent violation are subject to civil penalties in amounts up to $2,750.

Remember, it is illegal for all drivers to read, write or send text messages or emails and access the Web, including when stopped in traffic.

For more information, go to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website at

Q: Roundabouts are popping up all over Minnesota. How many are there in other places? Are they just as popular in other countries or not?

A: According to figures put out recently by the Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, there are about 2,000 roundabouts in the United States. If you think that's a lot, you can compare that to France, which has about 20,000 roundabouts, or to Australia, which has about 15,000 roundabouts. The United Kingdom is reported to have about 10,000 roundabouts.

You can see by these figures that roundabouts are very popular and no doubt will gain in popularity in the U.S. I understand some people don't like them initially, but they are very safe and they save lives, time and money, so you will continue to see them being built and used. Roundabouts actually are the safest intersections we have. They eliminate right angle crashes and slow down traffic and cost about the same as an intersections with lights.

Sgt. Curt S. Mowers is a regional public information officer for the Minnesota State Patrol.