Minnesota has a new hands-free law that prevents drivers from holding a cellphone or device in their hands. While it went into effect on August 1, authorities ticketed 2,729 motorists in September for violating the new law. This is, according to the Department of Public Safety, nearly an 18% jump in citations.
Despite the new law, an active media campaign and the fines that come with the tickets, hoped-for changes in behavior have not stuck. According to State Patrol Lt. Gordon Shank, “Unfortunately, some drivers have become comfortable and are slipping back into old habits when it comes to using the phone while behind the wheel.”
Old habits come at a price
Law enforcement responding to this risky behavior by stepping up its efforts to catch negligent drivers. One example includes a trucker driving a 40-ton tanker trailer carrying hazards materials in Eagan: according to law enforcement, he drove at least one-quarter of a mile while distracted by his device to point where he did not see the officer. The fine was $130, with subsequent violations jumping to $300.
Along with drivers holding a device in their hand, other violations under the new law include:
- Using the internet even in hands-free mode
- Using apps that are not music streaming or GPS
- Teenagers are not allowed to use devices even in hands-free mode
- Begin a phone call or end it while driving despite being hands-free during the call
- Operating a smartwatch in any way besides checking the time
Those with questions about the law can go to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s page.
The danger is real
Minnesota is not alone, with 20 other states also implementing hand-free driving laws. The best solution for obeying the law is to turn off the device and put it away – out of sight, out of mind. But distracted drivers cause an average of nine deaths per day with hundreds of others injured.