The Minnesota State Patrol will be working with local police departments, including Duluth, to conduct extra enforcement on April 19 in an effort to reduce distracted driving.  Also don't forget that texting while walking can be dangerous too.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, driver distraction is a leading crash factor in Minnesota, accounting for around 20 percent of all crashes annually, resulting in at least 70 deaths and 350 injuries.

A University of Utah study reports that using a cell phone while driving, whether hands-free or hand-held, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having an alcohol-concentration level of 0.08 percent. And when texting, drivers take their eyes off the road for up to 4.6 out of every 6 seconds — equivalent to traveling the length of a football field at 55 mph hours without looking up.

The State Patrol underscores driver distractions include reaching for items, fiddling with radio/music/vehicle controls, eating/drinking, dealing with rowdy passengers, grooming and more.

Tips to minimize distractions:

• Cell phones — turn off cell phones, or place them out of reach to avoid the urge to dial/answer or read or send a text. If a passenger is present, ask them to handle calls/texts.

• Music and other controls — pre-program favorite radio stations and arrange music in an easy-to-access spot. Adjust mirrors and AC/heat before traveling, or ask a passenger to assist.

• Navigation — designate a passenger to serve as a co-pilot to help with directions. If driving alone, map out destinations in advance, and pull over to study a map or program the GPS.

• Eating and drinking — try to avoid food/beverage (especially messy foods) and have drinks secured.

• Children — teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle; do not underestimate how distracting it can be to tend to children while driving.

• Passengers should speak up to stop drivers from distracted driving behavior.

• If making/receiving a call to/from someone driving, ask them to call back when they are not driving.