‘Hands-free’ bill clears Senate floor

On Monday, legislation that prohibits drivers from placing phone calls outside of hands-free mode was approved by the full Senate. House File 50, known as the ‘hands-free bill’ and authored by Senator Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson), passed the Senate with bipartisan support and awaits action by a conference committee.

“Cell phone abuse on the roadways is a growing problem. This isn’t about restricting liberties; it’s a matter of public safety. The purpose of this bill is to encourage drivers to use their phones in a hands-free manner – or put it down,” said Senator Newman. “Drivers have a responsibility to themselves, their passengers, and the others on the road. We need to reinforce just how dangerous cell phone use while driving can be, and that’s what this bill is intended to do.”

The bill requires drivers to use cell phones in hands-free mode for voice-activated calls. Functions such as navigation and music would still be allowed, along with podcasts and other audio-based content. The law would not apply to drivers in vehicles legally parked outside of traffic or for emergency calls. State law already bans texting, using email, and web browsing while driving.

“More and more Minnesotans are being seriously injured or killed because of irresponsible, cell phone use while driving. This legislation is attempting to encourage people to use phones in a hands-free manner – or put the phone down altogether. This is a matter of public safety,” Senator Newman continued.

The legislation awaits action by a conference committee, which will meet to work out differences between the bills passed by the House and the Senate.

Senator Scott Newman, of Hutchinson, is in his third term representing District 18, which includes communities in McLeod, Meeker, Sibley, and Wright counties. Senator Newman serves as chairman of the Senate Transportation Finance and Policy Committee.

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