'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.

Confirmed Cases: 96734

Reported Deaths: 2060
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin27177931
Ramsey10985320
Dakota7585126
Anoka6182135
Stearns404524
Washington384155
Scott260333
Olmsted247328
Nobles197516
Blue Earth17146
Wright16647
St. Louis161841
Carver14297
Clay141140
Rice13438
Mower13365
Sherburne116114
Kandiyohi10262
Winona90618
Lyon7134
Waseca6898
Benton5583
Steele5532
Freeborn5444
Nicollet54217
Crow Wing53318
Watonwan5304
Chisago5071
Todd5022
McLeod4942
Le Sueur4724
Otter Tail4454
Beltrami4405
Martin42610
Goodhue3769
Itasca33914
Pine3360
Douglas3262
Polk3164
Isanti3071
Becker2802
Carlton2711
Morrison2642
Dodge2480
Pipestone23010
Cottonwood2270
Chippewa2191
Meeker2072
Wabasha2010
Brown1952
Sibley1953
Yellow Medicine1872
Cass1824
Unassigned18052
Rock1760
Murray1702
Redwood1703
Mille Lacs1653
Renville1568
Jackson1501
Faribault1460
Swift1421
Houston1270
Kanabec1268
Roseau1240
Fillmore1230
Koochiching1233
Pennington1201
Lincoln1150
Hubbard1111
Stevens1051
Pope980
Big Stone830
Aitkin811
Wadena690
Wilkin663
Grant624
Lac qui Parle601
Lake590
Marshall531
Norman530
Mahnomen481
Red Lake451
Traverse310
Clearwater280
Lake of the Woods231
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 86239

Reported Deaths: 1307
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15962262
Woodbury550964
Johnson514727
Black Hawk450090
Linn4078112
Story345317
Dubuque328341
Scott302028
Dallas279838
Pottawattamie214139
Buena Vista199212
Marshall179034
Sioux16463
Wapello133457
Webster127214
Plymouth115521
Clinton112421
Muscatine111155
Crawford10915
Cerro Gordo105821
Warren9656
Jasper84532
Des Moines7978
Marion7637
Henry7464
Tama73231
Carroll6745
Lee6397
Wright5921
Dickinson5286
Boone5118
Bremer4957
Washington46611
Louisa42915
Delaware4103
Mahaska41019
Floyd3523
Franklin35018
Jackson3503
Winneshiek3396
Lyon3324
Clay3284
Hamilton3273
Benton3241
Winnebago31513
Hardin3041
Poweshiek3048
Buchanan2851
Jones2763
Kossuth2740
Butler2712
Shelby2671
Clarke2663
Emmet26510
Allamakee2646
Clayton2613
Chickasaw2570
Sac2570
Cherokee2512
Cedar2501
Guthrie2456
Harrison2413
Fayette2272
Grundy2233
Madison2232
Iowa2131
Palo Alto2030
Mitchell1910
Howard1906
Humboldt1903
Hancock1882
Calhoun1853
Mills1811
Page1700
Cass1692
Osceola1680
Pocahontas1632
Monroe15911
Monona1571
Lucas1566
Appanoose1393
Jefferson1391
Union1373
Taylor1311
Davis1274
Fremont1220
Ida1221
Van Buren1141
Keokuk1091
Worth1080
Greene1010
Montgomery975
Wayne872
Audubon821
Adair721
Decatur670
Ringgold522
Adams330
Unassigned230
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