Sen. Scott Jensen co-authors bill to increase penalty for causing bodily harm while texting to DUI level

Watch the press conference here.

Senator Scott Jensen (R-Chaska) joined chief-author Senator David Osmek (R-Mound) his fellow bill co-authors in introducing legislation that will strengthen the penalties for texting while driving in Minnesota, including making the penalty for causing injury or death while using a cell phone outside of hands-free mode the same as DUI.

“We all recognize that distracted driving is a growing hazard on our roadways,” said Senator Jensen. “However, not all distractions are equal. We’ve all adjusted our radios or had a sip of coffee, and most would agree, those actions should not be banned. This bill does not ban anything that already isn’t, instead focusing on the menace that is texting while driving and making our penalties and punishments appropriate for those who harm others.”

In addition to making the penalty for causing injury or death while using a cell phone outside of hands-free mode the same as DUI, the legislation also increases the penalties for texting while driving, including the potential loss of one’s cell phone after the third or subsequent violation. Further, the bill increases the required amount of driver’s education instruction on distracted driving.

Over the last five years (2013-2017) in Minnesota, distracted or inattentive driving resulted in an average of 53 deaths and 216 serious injuries each year. The Department of Traffic Safety Office estimates these numbers are underreported due to law enforcement’s challenge in determining distraction as a crash factor. In 2015, 74 individuals were killed on Minnesota roads due to distracted driving. In comparison, there were 95 fatalities due to drunk driving.

“We need to put an end to distracted driving on our roads,” added Senator Jensen. “However, looking at GPS on your phone while going ten miles an hour as your drop your child off at their piano lesson is not the same as texting while driving at 80 miles an hour. This bill focuses on holding drivers accountable and appropriately penalizing drivers who are risking lives by their actions.”

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