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Editorial: Illegal texting while driving needs to stop

Jeers to the young man who was seen text messaging while driving a motorcycle in and out of traffic through Park Rapids last week.

This is extremely dangerous and illegal. Text messaging, emailing or accessing the Web on a wireless device while driving - including while stopped in traffic - is illegal on Minnesota roads.

The violation can cost up to $300. As a primary offense, law enforcement can stop a motorist if they observe a driver in violation of the law.

According to the Department of Safety, the law states that no person may operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device to compose, read, or send an electronic message, when the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic. The law does not apply to devices that are permanently affixed to the vehicle or global positioning systems or navigation systems.

Beyond the fact that texting while driving is illegal, it is a safety concern for everyone driving on the road.

According to the Department of Public Safety, crashes in which distraction or inattention was a factor - including text-messaging or cell phone use - are vastly underreported. The state reports distraction was a factor in at least 15 percent of all fatal crashes during 2005-07, resulting in 240 traffic deaths.

Another 1,163 motorists suffered serious, life-altering injuries as a result of distracted driving crashes during this period. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says distraction is a factor in about 25 percent of all crashes.

Drivers need to be concentrating on the road and driving defensively. Is that text message or e-mail really that important? Can it wait until you reach your destination?

Cell phone use for teen drivers with a provisional license is completely prohibited by a law in effect since 2006.

In an informal DPS Minnesota teen driving survey, teen respondents said texting was their biggest distraction while driving. Texting was also cited as the "most unsafe" behavior their friends engaged in while driving.

We hope this young man discontinues his use of a cell phone while driving - for his safety and the safety of others.