'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: 591445

Reported Deaths: 7367
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1224421730
Ramsey51212875
Dakota45791452
Anoka41604438
Washington26834283
Stearns22196222
St. Louis17734303
Scott17244124
Wright16009139
Olmsted1322598
Sherburne1167187
Carver1047545
Clay814492
Rice8037107
Blue Earth749641
Crow Wing663189
Kandiyohi654283
Chisago596651
Otter Tail574078
Benton568297
Goodhue477272
Douglas466375
Mower464832
Winona453950
Itasca435556
McLeod422559
Isanti419664
Morrison418260
Nobles407648
Beltrami394459
Steele386715
Polk383568
Becker379751
Lyon360251
Carlton345054
Freeborn341529
Pine327822
Nicollet325643
Brown305040
Mille Lacs303253
Le Sueur290922
Todd281632
Cass271328
Meeker255740
Waseca235922
Martin230531
Roseau209019
Wabasha20513
Hubbard188341
Dodge18453
Renville179743
Redwood174037
Houston171616
Cottonwood164821
Fillmore155910
Wadena155922
Pennington153619
Chippewa152138
Faribault152119
Kanabec144326
Sibley143110
Aitkin134736
Watonwan13219
Rock128119
Jackson121712
Pipestone115426
Yellow Medicine114120
Pope11006
Murray10619
Swift105218
Stevens90411
Marshall88117
Clearwater86616
Koochiching82715
Wilkin81112
Lake80919
Lac qui Parle75222
Big Stone6004
Lincoln5813
Grant5748
Mahnomen5469
Norman5399
Unassigned48993
Kittson48622
Red Lake3957
Traverse3695
Lake of the Woods3243
Cook1620

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 366827

Reported Deaths: 5937
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57596625
Linn20845335
Scott20025241
Black Hawk15803308
Woodbury15128228
Johnson1447483
Dubuque13368208
Dallas1117898
Pottawattamie11113168
Story1061248
Warren577088
Clinton555593
Cerro Gordo539789
Sioux514474
Webster512393
Marshall482975
Muscatine480799
Des Moines455766
Wapello4299122
Buena Vista424540
Jasper418872
Plymouth401180
Lee375755
Marion362575
Jones298957
Henry291637
Carroll285752
Bremer284360
Crawford266440
Boone264534
Benton256455
Washington254150
Dickinson248343
Mahaska230351
Jackson221742
Clay215525
Kossuth215364
Delaware209541
Tama209571
Winneshiek196834
Page192622
Buchanan191232
Cedar190023
Hardin185243
Fayette185041
Wright184637
Hamilton179849
Harrison179573
Clayton169456
Butler164934
Mills162322
Madison162219
Floyd160542
Cherokee158738
Lyon157941
Poweshiek154734
Allamakee151551
Iowa148724
Hancock147834
Winnebago142431
Cass138554
Calhoun138413
Grundy136333
Emmet134140
Jefferson132335
Shelby131037
Sac130319
Union128333
Louisa128049
Appanoose127949
Mitchell126342
Chickasaw124015
Guthrie121530
Franklin120021
Humboldt119126
Palo Alto112723
Howard104622
Montgomery103338
Clarke100124
Unassigned9710
Keokuk95831
Monroe95229
Ida90535
Adair86532
Pocahontas85522
Davis82924
Monona82830
Osceola78616
Greene77610
Lucas77323
Worth7478
Taylor65812
Fremont6229
Decatur6089
Van Buren55818
Ringgold55624
Wayne53923
Audubon51010
Adams3384
Rochester
Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 55°
Mason City
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 53°
Albert Lea
Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 55°
Austin
Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 55°
Charles City
Cloudy
° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: °
Warmer conditions for the weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events