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Ask a Trooper: Distracted driving

Q: Can someone who had a shoulder replacement and will be in a sling for four more weeks still be legal to drive with one arm?

A: There are no restrictions placed on a license for this situation, unless a physician notifies Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) of such. If the driver’s (lack of) control of the vehicle due to this type of injury causes other issues that made for a traffic stop or if that person was involved in a crash, a citation could be issued.  

As drivers, we alone are in control of what we pay attention to while driving. That is an action you have 100 percent control of. It starts with you each and every time you get behind the wheel.

Distracted or inattentive driving is when a driver engages in any activity that might distract them from the primary task of driving — and increases their risk of crashing.

Over the last five years (2013-17) in Minnesota, distracted or inattentive driving was a contributing factor in an average of 54 deaths and 221 serious injuries each year. The Department of Traffic Safety Office of Traffic Safety estimates these numbers are underreported due to law enforcement’s challenge in determining distraction as a crash factor.

While many motorists may perceive driving as a routine activity, attentive driving is critical as the traffic environment changes constantly and drivers must be prepared to react.

Tips to avoid distracted driving
  • Cellphones — Turn off cellphones, or place them out of reach to avoid the urge to text, call or answer. If a passenger is present, ask them to handle calls/texts.
  • Music and other controls: Pre-program favorite radio stations for easy access and arrange music (mp3 player/CDs/tapes) in an easy-to-access spot. Adjust mirrors and heat/AC before traveling, or ask a passenger to assist.
  • Navigation — Designate a passenger to serve as a co-pilot to help with directions. If driving alone, map out destinations in advance, and pull over to study a map.
  • Eating and drinking — Try to avoid food/beverage, at least messy foods, and be sure food and drinks are secured.
  • Children — Teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle; do not underestimate how distracting it can be to tend to children while driving.
  • Passengers — Speak up to stop drivers from distracted driving behavior.
  • Making/receiving calls — Ask if the person is driving. If so, ask them to call back at a safer time.

Send your questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota to trooper@duluthnews.com or Sgt. Neil Dickenson – Minnesota State Patrol at 1131 Mesaba Ave., Duluth, MN 55811. You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NE or reach him at neil.dickenson@state.mn.us.