On Friday, legislation that prohibits drivers from placing phone calls outside of ‘hands-free’ mode was signed into law. The law, known as the ‘hands-free cell phone law’, was authored by Senator Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) and approved by the legislature in April. The law goes into effect on August 1, 2019.
“Cell phone abuse on the roadways is a growing problem. This isn’t about restricting liberties; it’s a matter of public safety,” said Senator Newman. “This is bipartisan legislation that comes out of months of work between the House, Senate, and stakeholders, with the goal of getting drivers to use their phones in a hands-free manner – or put it down.”
Minnesota state law already bans texting, using email, and web browsing while driving, but this legislation requires drivers to only use cell phones in ‘hands-free’ mode for voice-activated calls. ‘One-touch’ functions, such as navigation prompts, music, podcasts, and other audi-based content, will still be allowed if accessed without holding the device, typing, or scrolling. The law does not apply to drivers in legally-parked vehicles or to law enforcement and emergency personnel. The penalty for violating the law is a gross misdemeanor, carrying a $50 fine for the first violation and a $275 fine for subsequent violations.
The bill was signed into law by Governor Tim Walz on Friday.
“More and more Minnesotans are being seriously injured or killed because of irresponsible, distracted driving. 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,” Senator Newman continued.
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.