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Keep your eyes on the road: Distracted driving crackdown begins Monday

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Put down your cellphone and keep your eyes on the road – law enforcement agencies are cracking down on distracted driving starting Monday.

“We all must do our part to change the behaviors of drivers who choose to text while driving,” Donna Berger, Office of Traffic Safety director, said in a news release. “Speak up, tell your friends and loved ones to put the phone down, before it’s too late.”

More than 300 agencies across the state will be participating in a six-day crackdown to nab drivers multitasking behind the wheel. The campaign ends Saturday.

In Minnesota, it's illegal for drivers to send a text or email or access the Internet while the vehicle is part of traffic – meaning drivers shouldn't be reaching for their phone while waiting at a red light.

But texting and driving isn't the only distraction drivers face. Adjusting music, eating or drinking, reading, among other tasks can cause drivers to take their attention off the road, which can be dangerous or even fatal.

Distracted driving is one of the major contributors to car accidents, with officials saying it causes about one in four crashes per year.

In 2014, preliminary numbers show multitasking was a factor in 16,900 crashes, resulting in 56 deaths and 165 injuries on Minnesota roads. Law enforcement officials also issued 3,200 citations last year alone for violating the state's texting-while-driving law, officials said.

Those citations can really add up – fines can run $125-$145 per violation, depending on the county, KARE 11 says.

This week's crackdown is part of Minnesota's Toward Zero Deaths campaign, which aims to limit traffic deaths to 300 by the year 2020. Last year there were 359 traffic fatalities.

There have been 71 fatalities on the roads so far this year, the same amount as this time last year, data show.

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