'Hands free' cell phones is now the law for Minnesota drivers

AP image - Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz

Gov. Walz sign legislation mandating only hands-free devices while driving.

Posted: Apr 12, 2019 2:51 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Motorists will be required to use hands-free devices to talk on the phone while driving on Minnesota roads starting Aug. 1 under a bill that Gov. Tim Walz signed Friday to crack down on the growing problem of distracted driving.

Walz paid tribute to dozens of people surrounding him at the ceremony who held pictures of loved ones they lost in crashes caused by distracted drivers. He said he knows their pain will never leave, but that lives will be saved because of their years of sharing heartbreaking stories to pass the law. Minnesota is joining 16 other states and the District of Columbia with similar laws.

"We will reduce deaths," Walz said. "Sons will come home. Mothers will come home. Our children and grandchildren will come home because of the work that you did."

The new law marks an important bipartisan success for the Democratic governor and a Legislature divided between a Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate . More diplomacy will critical for resolving the big partisan differences that remain on taxes and spending if lawmakers are going to complete their work by the May 20 deadline.

Vijay Dixit, of Eden Prairie, whose daughter, Shreya, died in a crash caused by a distracted driver in 2007, was there to see 12 years of his campaigning become law.

"I hope that distracted driving, which was a tongue-twister in 2007, will disappear from the face of this earth over the next few years that we have this law in place," he said.

The chief author in the House, Democrat Frank Hornstein, of Minneapolis, said the "courage, perseverance and dignity" of the survivors changed hearts and minds at the Capitol. The converts included the chief Senate author, Republican Scott Newman, of Hutchinson, who said he didn't support the proposal four years ago but came to realize after hearing the families' stories that he was in a position to make a difference.

The law bars motorists from holding and using cellphones or other wireless devices while driving. Built-in Bluetooth systems meet the legal requirements that systems be voice-activated, but so do cheap hands-free mounts sold by many stores and online retailers. There's an exception for emergency calls. Drivers can still use GPS navigation apps, stream music and listen to podcasts if they're voice activated or if they start them up while they're still parked.

The penalty for a first offense will be a $50 fine, rising to $275 for additional violations. Minnesota already bans texting and emailing while driving.

Separate legislation has already passed the Senate to stiffen existing penalties for texting while driving. That bill would also treat drivers who kill or injure someone while texting or talking on a non-hands-free phone more like drunken drivers with felony-level penalties. But the measure is still in committee in the House, where it's unclear if it will pass this year.

According to the Department of Public Safety, at least 27 of Minnesota's approximately 380 traffic deaths last year were related to distractions of all kinds, and officials consider cellphones the fastest-growing distraction. Col. Matt Langer, chief of the State Patrol, said the real toll from distracted driving is likely higher.

Langer called on Minnesotans to start complying with the law now rather than waiting for it to take effect Aug. 1. The department will now launch a public education campaign using $700,000 in federal funds so that all Minnesota drivers learn what they need to do to comply with the law.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 485655

Reported Deaths: 6558
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1007641586
Ramsey43106801
Dakota36297390
Anoka33293385
Washington22078256
Stearns18734201
St. Louis14805262
Scott13290107
Wright12526115
Olmsted1178988
Sherburne872872
Carver772640
Clay691587
Rice670491
Blue Earth594735
Kandiyohi579574
Crow Wing520681
Chisago499045
Otter Tail482170
Benton446490
Winona418349
Mower404731
Douglas392668
Nobles387047
Goodhue385768
Polk343162
McLeod339349
Beltrami337951
Morrison324547
Itasca313046
Lyon313044
Becker311342
Isanti306154
Steele300411
Carlton300149
Pine282016
Freeborn280723
Nicollet258641
Todd248030
Brown245037
Le Sueur235320
Mille Lacs227447
Cass220024
Waseca208717
Meeker207434
Martin189528
Wabasha18653
Roseau180217
Hubbard160640
Houston157314
Dodge15224
Renville149640
Redwood147027
Fillmore13728
Chippewa136335
Cottonwood134820
Pennington134416
Wadena130920
Faribault123017
Aitkin118833
Sibley117310
Watonwan11738
Rock115714
Kanabec107519
Pipestone101424
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9448
Jackson93510
Swift87918
Pope8045
Marshall77815
Stevens7418
Lake74018
Clearwater71914
Lac qui Parle68416
Wilkin67110
Koochiching61811
Big Stone5163
Lincoln5062
Grant4918
Norman4788
Unassigned46768
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40921
Red Lake3625
Traverse3055
Lake of the Woods2191
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 362827

Reported Deaths: 5440
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58260551
Linn20670313
Scott18318210
Black Hawk16258292
Woodbury14979211
Johnson1384874
Dubuque13562194
Dallas1138690
Pottawattamie10791143
Story1024945
Warren556674
Clinton543784
Cerro Gordo533782
Webster519587
Marshall497272
Sioux494869
Buena Vista474537
Des Moines458861
Muscatine452291
Wapello4345108
Jasper417766
Plymouth395378
Lee375452
Marion359169
Jones294154
Henry293337
Carroll286249
Bremer280854
Crawford275135
Boone259730
Washington254347
Benton253854
Mahaska224746
Jackson221638
Dickinson217840
Tama213765
Kossuth208555
Clay193625
Hamilton192142
Delaware189140
Winneshiek189127
Buchanan185729
Fayette185235
Page183319
Hardin181439
Wright179931
Harrison179469
Cedar178523
Clayton168154
Butler167231
Mills163020
Floyd162741
Cherokee154836
Madison154718
Poweshiek154330
Hancock147130
Allamakee146747
Lyon145941
Iowa145023
Appanoose139247
Grundy139230
Jefferson138734
Winnebago138631
Cass134751
Calhoun133811
Mitchell130940
Louisa128241
Union126631
Chickasaw125215
Sac124618
Emmet121740
Shelby121733
Franklin118319
Humboldt117925
Guthrie116628
Palo Alto105221
Montgomery104136
Howard102921
Clarke100420
Unassigned9900
Keokuk98229
Monroe93328
Adair92128
Ida91432
Pocahontas85419
Davis83123
Monona81627
Greene77510
Lucas74021
Osceola70615
Worth6997
Taylor66612
Fremont5909
Decatur5829
Van Buren56118
Ringgold52320
Wayne48921
Audubon4889
Adams3274
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