Perspectives

Understanding the New Hands-Free Driving Bill

A new bill signed Friday April 12, 2019 by Governor Tim Walz is set to go into effect August 1.

The new Hands-Free Cell Phone bill is aimed at reducing accidents caused by distracted driving. The bill, in effect, will ban drivers from using their cell phones while driving unless the function is hands-free or voice-activated.

By enacting this bill, Minnesota joins 16 other states with similar laws. The bill is advocated for by the Minnesota Department of Safety, which reports more than 60,000 crashes were caused by distracted driving from 2014 – 2018. Other advocates of the bill include families who have lost a loved one due to accidents caused by distracted driving. Governor Walz hopes this bill will reduce deaths going forward and help move toward a future where distracted driving has disappeared for good.

WHAT IS THE PENALTY FOR VIOLATING THE NEW LAW?

The penalty for violation of the law is a $50 fine for a first violation and a $275 fine for subsequent violations.

WHAT CAN DRIVERS DO UNDER THE NEW LAW?

  •  Only if the device is hands-free or is voice-activated, text messages and phone calls are acceptable.
  •  Navigation apps may be used as long as the device is hands free, and the address is put in before the vehicle begins moving.
  •  Music or podcasts may be listened to, as long as the driver does not scroll through their phone while driving.
  •  Exceptions for calls made in hands-free mode include for emergency situations and for the activation of one-touch functions.

WHAT CAN DRIVERS NOT DO UNDER THE NEW LAW?

  •  Drivers cannot use their phone to video call, live stream, Snap chat, view photos or videos, play games or use non-navigation apps
  • Read or type out text messages
  • Manually punch in a phone number or address into a navigation app
  • Scroll through a list of contacts or text messages

CONSIDER:

  • Buying a Bluetooth earpiece or other hands free technology.
  • Buying a phone or GPS dashboard mount for navigation purposes
  • If your car has the built-in technology – set up your Bluetooth/ car apps for voice technology and one-touch access
  • Finding music playlists or podcasts before driving.
  • Also remember – using earphones in both ears at the same time is illegal in Minnesota.