Countdown to the hands-free cell phone law

MGN Online

Come August 1, 2019, Minnesotans must put down their cell phones while driving. The hands-free bill, signed by Gov. Tim Walz on April 12, 2019, will make it illegal for drivers to hold their cell phones in their hands while driving.  

Find answers to frequently answered questions below.

What can I do under the new law?

The new law allows a driver to use their cell phone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and get directions, but only by voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone. Remember, hands-free is not necessarily distraction-free.

What can’t I do with my phone under the new law?

You may not hold your phone in your hand. Also, a driver may not use their phone at any time for video calling, video live-streaming, Snapchat, gaming, looking at video or photos stored on the phone, using non-navigation apps, reading texts and scrolling or typing on the phone.

Can I ever hold my phone?

Yes. Hand-held phone use is allowed to obtain emergency assistance, if there is an immediate threat to life and safety, or when in an authorized emergency vehicle while performing official duties.

Can I use a GPS navigation device?

Yes. GPS and other systems that can only be used for navigation are exempt from the Hands-Free law. In-car screens and systems are also exempt. In both cases, most of these systems lock when the vehicle is moving.

Is it against the new law to hold a phone in a hijab or other type of headscarf or wrap?

Having a cell phone tucked into a headscarf or head wrap is not against the hands-free cell phone law. The phone must be securely situated to remain hands-free and must not block the driver’s vision in any way. What would be against the new law is if the driver removed the phone and held it in their hand while they were a part of traffic.

Are there penalties?

Yes. The first ticket is $50 plus court fees and the second and later tickets are $275 plus court fees.

Will this make the roads safer?

Yes, in two ways. In 12 of 15 states with hands-free laws, traffic fatalities have decreased by an average of 15 percent [Source: National Safety Council and Insurance Federation based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data].

This law will also help law enforcement keep Minnesotans safe. Because drivers aren’t allowed to have a phone in their hand, it’ll be easier for law enforcement to see violations and take more effective action.

Through public awareness and education, the goal is for Minnesotans to comply with the new law without enforcement action.

For more info, visit bit.ly/MNhandsfree

—Information provided by the Office of Traffic Safety, a division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.