Todd Talks About Minnesota’s Hands Free Law

July 1, 2019
Todd Fritz

We’ve all read about tragic accidents due to distracted driving. We’ve all seen it more often than we’d like. We all hope we don’t look over and see the person next to us eating breakfast and texting on the phone. Most of us are guilty of it. Most of us have had a near miss because of it. By now, we’ve all heard that Minnesota passed a new hands-free law earlier this year. As you know I make my living from wireless devices, but I can honestly say, I am all for the new hands-free law. It just makes sense, for the safety of everyone on the roads.

I have had several near misses and one that scared the heck out of me. I was driving south on I-94 and the driver of the 18-wheeler bedside me was definitely texting on his phone. He swerved, I swerved, I prayed and for a minute thought I wasn’t going to make it. It cured me of texting while driving. I hope you never have a close call like I did. The Minnesota State Patrol has some heart wrenching videos of tragedies that resulted from distracted driving.

If you aren’t convinced not to, I’d encourage you to check them out. Changing your habits could save your life or someone else’s.  I wanted to share some insight gathered from the Office of Traffic Safety.

Here are the facts:

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  • The hands-free bill was signed by Gov. Tim Walz on April 12, 2019 and becomes law on Aug. 1, 2019.
  • Keep in mind that for drivers under the age of 18, it is illegal for them to use a cell phone, hands free or otherwise, EXCEPT to call 911 in an emergency.

What can I do under the new law?

The new law allows a driver to use their cell phone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and get directions, but only by voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone.

  • Remember, hands-free is not necessarily distraction-free.

What can’t I do with my phone under the new law?

You may not hold your phone in your hand. Also, a driver may not use their 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 on the phone. This includes when you are stopped at a stop sign, a traffic light or in traffic. You are still operating a motor vehicle.

Can I ever hold my phone?

Yes. Hand-held phone use is allowed to obtain emergency assistance, if there is an immediate threat to life and safety.

Can I use a GPS navigation device?

Yes. GPS and other systems that can only be used for navigation are exempt from the Hands-Free law.  Since scrolling is prohibited, you should put in the address before the vehicle is moving. In-car screens and systems are also exempt. In both cases, most of these systems lock when the vehicle is moving.

Are there penalties?

Yes. Violation of the law is a petty misdemeanor and the first ticket is $50 plus court fees and the second and later tickets are $275 plus court fees. The unwritten penalty is having to live with yourself if you injure someone due to distracted driving.

Other Suggestions: (I can assist with the selection and purchase of any of these).

  • Get a phone mount – it’s not necessary but keeps your phone nearby and stable. Lots of options online. Once it’s mounted you need either of these:
    • Bluetooth speaker – lots of options here also, check the battery life specs or get one that plugs into what you’d call the cigarette lighter or auxiliary power outlet.
    • Bluetooth earpiece – it has to be for one ear only, so no using your Apple EarPods.
  • Just let your phone go to voicemail while driving and return calls when you are not. ?
  • You can turn on “do not disturb” while driving so you don’t receive text messages. If you don’t know how to do this I can assist.

Will this make the roads safer?

Yes, in two ways. In 12 of 15 states with hands-free laws, traffic fatalities have decreased by an average of 15 percent [Source: National Safety Council and Insurance Federation based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data].

This law will also help law enforcement keep Minnesotans safe. Because drivers aren’t allowed to have a phone in their hand, it’ll be easier for law enforcement to see violations and take more effective action.

Please have a wonderful summer, drive safely, and remember the people at home want you to return. ?

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