National, local campaigns urge drivers to put down phones

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A national safety organization has launched a campaign to combat distracted driving to coincide with the state's efforts to crackdown on the accident-causing issue.

Minnesota is among the states currently working to limit inattentive driving. Through April 20, 400 agencies in Minnesota are stepping up distracted driving enforcement and ticketing multi-tasking drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched its first ever campaign to stop texting and driving. U Drive. U Text. U Pay. is an $8.5 million effort that includes police crackdowns and public service announcements.

"This campaign puts distracted driving on par with our efforts to fight drunk driving or to encourage seatbelt use," U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a press release. "Across the country, we're putting distracted drivers on notice: If you're caught texting while driving, the message you receive won't be from your cell phone, but from law enforcement – U Drive. U Text. U Pay."

The NHTSA is using hard-hitting ads that will get drivers' attention, which they hope will stop people from texting and driving.

Here's one of the public service announcements:

The NHTSA estimates that 3,328 people were killed and an estimated 421,000 were injured in distraction-related crashes nationwide in 2012 – which is a 9 percent increase from 2011, according to the official U.S. government website on distracted driving. Safety officials say from 2009 through 2013, one-fourth of the crashes on Minnesota roads were caused by distractions. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says that translates to an average of 60 deaths and 8,000 injuries per year.

The Star Tribune says statistics show more than 70 percent of young people say they have sent a text message while behind the wheel and nearly 80 percent say they have read a text while driving.

Major Darrell Huggett of the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office told the Star Tribune that reciting facts and showing drivers disturbing images may not change their attitudes about texting and driving, but he hopes reaching out to those who aren't old enough to drive will. The newspaper says there are also campaigns that urge preschoolers and elementary school-aged children to "say something" when a driver is texting or ask them to volunteer to be the designated texter.

Post by NHTSA.

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