The Minnesota hands-free bill was signed by Gov. Tim Walz on April 12, 2019 and went into effect Aug. 1, 2019. Here are some of the provisions of the new law.
The important thing to understand is that although the new law does not prohibit the use of a cell phone in a car, there now are significant restrictions on that use.
Except for some specific exceptions, a driver may not hold a cell phone in their hand while operating a motor vehicle. The driver is also not allowed to use a cell phone at any time for video calling, video live-streaming, Snapchat, gaming, looking at video or photos stored on the phone, using non-navigation apps, reading texts and scrolling or typing.
The exceptions are specific and limited: 1) A cell phone can be used to obtain emergency assistance, 2) a cell phone can also be used if there is an immediate threat to life and safety, and 3) although this does not apply to most individuals, when in an authorized emergency vehicle performing official duties.
If ticketed for unlawful use, the cost is $50 for the first ticket and $275 for any subsequent ticket.
The Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety recommendation is clear: go hands-free by turning off the phone and placing it in your purse/bag, trunk, center console or glove compartment. However, placing a cell phone on a mount is also an option. However, mounted on a windshield, it must be mounted at the bottommost portion of the windshield. Other options are the passenger seat, a cup holder or other locations in the vehicle if the drive. The primary restriction is that the driver cannot be holding it.
The legislative intent of this law is simple: to remind individuals that distractions are one of the primary causes of auto accidents. And all drivers should keep in mind that hands-free does not mean distraction free.
Cell phones can still be used in a vehicle in the following ways:
1.Newer cars can connect to a phone using Bluetooth technology and one-touch capabilities to answer a call and continue it through a car’s audio system, hands-free.
2.Earphones can be used to connect to a phone using Bluetooth if they allow a driver to take a call with the push of a button, hands-free. Keep in mind, Minnesota law bars drivers from having earphones in both ears at the same time.
3.Cables and adaptors are available that can connect a phone’s earphone jack to a car’s aux jack. This allows operation of a phone by voice or single touch while listening through car speakers.
4.One-touch activation is allowed on a phone, but a driver is not allowed to scroll or hold a phone in their hand while following directions on a navigation system. This issue can be addressed by using a dashboard mount that holds a phone at eye level.
5.The best solution is to simply not use your phone while driving! Most day-to-day calls can actually wait a few minutes.
Your safety and the safety of other drivers on the road is worth it!