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Minnesota House backs hands-free cellphone rule for driving

Minnesota motorists would be required to use hands-free devices when talking on the phone while driving under a bill that passed the state House on Monday night.

Posted: Mar 19, 2019 6:56 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota motorists would be required to use hands-free devices when talking on the phone while driving under a bill that passed the state House on Monday night, after sponsors said the measure will cut down on distracted driving and save lives.

The House approved the bill 106-21 with bipartisan support, though a few critics said it doesn't go far enough because it doesn't include tougher penalties for texting while driving, which is already illegal in Minnesota.

"There's clear evidence from other states that these types of laws save lives," Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman said at a news conference earlier in the day. "We've heard so many heart-wrenching stories from Minnesotans about family members they've lost because people are on their smartphones instead of focusing on the road."

A similar bill working its way through the Senate exempts the manual use of GPS navigation systems. The House bill would limit GPS use while moving to one-touch, voice-activated apps such as Google Maps. The bill's chief House sponsor, Rep. Frank Hornstein, said he's confident the differences will get worked out in conference committee, adding that Gov. Tim Walz has indicated that will sign the bill.

Drivers would not need vehicles with built-in Bluetooth wireless systems, Hornstein said. For older cars, he said, hands-free mounts that comply are available online for as little as $9.

The Department of Public Safety says that at least 27 of Minnesota's approximately 380 traffic deaths last year were related to distractions of all kinds. Experts testified during committee hearings that cellphone use is the fastest-growing distraction, causing a rising number of deaths and injuries.

Assuming the bill becomes law, Minnesota would become one of 18 states plus the District of Columbia that require drivers to use hands-free devices while phoning. A separate bill to toughen the state's existing penalties for texting while driving is working its way through the committee process in the Senate. Hornstein said that bill may get heard in the House later.

Hornstein, a Minneapolis Democrat who chairs the House transportation committee, acknowledged that hands-free does not make phoning while driving completely distraction-free. But he said it would be a "major step forward."

He sponsored a similar hands-free bill last year, but Hortman said Republican leaders who controlled the House back then would not allow a floor vote because it didn't have enough GOP support. Democrats won control of the House with the November elections and Hortman became speaker in January.

Karin Ilg, of New Prague, recalled to reporters how her husband, Phil Ilg, was killed when he was struck on his bicycle from behind by a 16-year-old driver who was focused more on her phone than on the road. Ilg said she has been cutting up his bike and handing out small pieces — like one that she held up — to every 16-year-old she can "as a reminder not to text and drive. ... The time is now for us to get this going and to have this as law."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 39589

Reported Deaths: 1523
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12703789
Ramsey5013230
Dakota247993
Stearns242919
Anoka2293110
Nobles16726
Olmsted116817
Washington116340
Mower9652
Rice8598
Scott7834
Clay59538
Kandiyohi5821
Blue Earth5102
Wright4925
Carver4171
Todd4022
Lyon3272
Sherburne3275
Freeborn2980
Watonwan2400
Steele2391
Benton2213
St. Louis19816
Nicollet17612
Martin1715
Cottonwood1370
Goodhue1328
Winona13115
Le Sueur1101
Pine1100
Crow Wing10912
Chisago1021
Otter Tail1001
McLeod940
Dodge920
Carlton880
Unassigned8738
Polk842
Chippewa791
Isanti760
Waseca710
Douglas660
Murray660
Itasca6512
Pipestone632
Meeker611
Morrison611
Faribault600
Becker570
Jackson550
Sibley552
Pennington520
Brown372
Renville362
Beltrami350
Wabasha350
Mille Lacs342
Rock310
Fillmore300
Yellow Medicine300
Houston280
Swift231
Norman210
Wilkin213
Redwood200
Cass192
Big Stone170
Grant170
Koochiching171
Roseau170
Aitkin150
Kanabec151
Wadena150
Marshall120
Pope120
Lincoln110
Mahnomen101
Clearwater90
Hubbard80
Lake60
Stevens60
Traverse60
Lac qui Parle40
Red Lake40
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32533

Reported Deaths: 735
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6827181
Woodbury326444
Black Hawk235558
Buena Vista172411
Johnson13638
Linn132382
Dallas129829
Marshall106319
Scott88310
Story8194
Dubuque77122
Pottawattamie75812
Wapello71231
Crawford6793
Muscatine67544
Sioux4880
Tama47329
Wright3881
Louisa36313
Jasper32917
Plymouth3275
Warren2971
Dickinson2823
Webster2524
Washington2479
Cerro Gordo2011
Hamilton1921
Boone1571
Clay1421
Allamakee1354
Clarke1343
Mahaska11817
Shelby1170
Clinton1151
Poweshiek1078
Carroll1041
Pocahontas1011
Bremer987
Franklin980
Des Moines942
Emmet910
Henry883
Cedar851
Hardin830
Taylor810
Cherokee791
Monona770
Floyd742
Marion740
Benton691
Guthrie694
Jones650
Osceola640
Sac640
Jefferson620
Iowa611
Buchanan601
Butler602
Humboldt571
Calhoun552
Hancock541
Harrison540
Lee542
Delaware531
Fayette520
Monroe517
Madison492
Lyon470
Clayton463
Mills430
Winneshiek430
Davis421
Palo Alto420
Mitchell410
Grundy400
Howard370
Jackson370
Kossuth370
Union360
Lucas314
Winnebago300
Chickasaw290
Greene290
Cass240
Ida230
Appanoose213
Van Buren210
Keokuk201
Page200
Unassigned200
Worth200
Adair170
Audubon161
Ringgold150
Decatur120
Montgomery102
Wayne100
Adams80
Fremont80
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