Last month, St. Paul police cited a woman who was using her phone to attend a remote court hearing while she was driving.
In another case, police in the west metro stopped a driver who was texting and eating while stopped at a traffic signal, while Anoka County authorities tagged a driver for reading a text message from her hairstylist while behind the wheel.
They were among the more than 3,400 motorists who were ticketed by law enforcement for violating the state's hands-free law during April's Distracted Driving Awareness campaign.
"It's mind-blowing that this many people still don't get it," said Mike Hanson, director of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Office of Traffic Safety. "You have one job behind the wheel — and that's driving. Not eating. Not scrolling through your phone. Not putting on makeup. Distractions are deadly, plain and simple."
Since Aug. 1, 2019, state law has prohibited drivers from holding their phones or other electronic devices in their hands while behind the wheel. The law allows drivers to use their cellphones to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and get directions, but only by using voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone.
Video calling, streaming videos, accessing social media or using the internet are against the law.
Tickets for distracted driving come with a fine of $120 for the first offense and more than $300 for subsequent offenses, with additional court costs tacked on.
More than 275 agencies across the state participated in the annual monthlong enforcement to draw attention to the hands-free law and curb the behavior that the Department of Public Safety (DPS) says is one of the leading causes of crashes that result in serious injuries or death.
Last year, deaths (22) and serious injuries (126) attributed to distracted driving dropped to their lowest levels since the hands-free law took effect. Still, distracted driving was a contributing factor in more than 32,000 crashes — 1 in every 11 crashes on Minnesota roads — between 2018 and 2022, the DPS said.
Four people have died in crashes attributed to distracted driving so far in 2023, the DPS said.
In the metro area, the St. Paul Police Department issued the most tickets for distracted driving last month with 571. The State Patrol's west metro district handed out 194 citations and troopers in the east metro wrote 127 tickets.
Outside of the Twin Cities, state troopers in northeastern Minnesota wrote the most citations, issuing 274 tickets, followed by the patrol's St. Cloud region at 209 and the Duluth area at 137.