Hands-free cell phone use became the law in Minnesota on August 1, 2019, which means that drivers in traffic may not hold phones in their hands. Instead, motorists must use voice activation or one-touch capabilities when they want to make a phone call or enable navigation apps. Despite education and awareness campaigns, people remain confused about what they can and can’t do under the new hands-free law. Others are perhaps resistant to change. In the first 10 days the law was in effect, Minnesota State Troopers wrote 740 citations and warnings for violations.
If you’ve been seriously injured by a distracted driver using a cell phone, call an experienced personal injury attorney today. A good car accident * lawyer will investigate and establish whether or not a driver was texting, making a phone call, posting to social media, or using a smart phone in some other way at the time of the crash. The attorney will begin working with insurance companies directly, so that you can focus on healing.
Here are the answers to some questions about the new law.
10 Things to Know About Minnesota’s Hands-Free Law
1. How can I use my phone under the new law?
You can use your cell phone while driving to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts, and get directions, as long as you perform these functions using only voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone.
2. What types of phone use is not allowed?
You can’t hold your phone in your hand while you’re driving or in traffic. This includes at stop lights or stop signs. No video chats, video live-streaming, Snapchat, gaming, looking at your stored videos or photos, reading texts, scrolling or typing is allowed, nor any other use of apps other than those used for navigation.
3. Can I use a GPS navigation system?
Devices that only provide GPS navigation and in-car screens and systems are exempt from the hands-free law.
4. How does the hands-free law apply to teen drivers?
Nothing changes for those under 18 with a driver’s permit or provisional license. They were already barred from using their phones for calls while driving, whether or not they held the phone, and that law remains in effect.
Young drivers are allowed to use a hands-free method or voice activation to:
- Use GPS navigation through a cell phone. They cannot type an address while driving.
- Listen to music or podcasts. However, they must not scroll through playlists or channels.
5. What about emergencies?
Any driver, regardless of age, may call 911 in an emergency situation, even if they must do so while holding a phone.
6. Is it legal to hold a phone in a hijab or other type of headscarf or wrap?
Yes. The phone must be well secured without obstructing the driver’s vision. It would be illegal for the driver to hold the phone in hand while in traffic, for example by having it in hand before or after placing it under the hijab or scarf.
7. What is the penalty for violating the hands-free law?
The first ticket is $50 plus court fees. The fine is $275 plus court fees for a second or later tickets.
8. Will the hands-free law save lives?
There’s plenty of evidence to show that it will. In 12 of the 15 states that have already passed such laws, traffic fatalities dropped by an average 15%, according to the National Safety Council and Insurance Federation, using National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.
9. How do I go hands-free?
- The easiest way is to simply not use your phone while you’re driving. Put it away, or, if you have a passenger, let the passenger answer a call or read a text for you.
- Use a single earphone and a microphone. Using earphones in both ears is illegal.
- Pair your phone to your car, if both have Bluetooth capabilities.
- Buy an auxiliary cable to connect your phone to a car’s AUX jack.
- In an older car without an AUX jack, use an adapter that fits into the cassette player.
- Clip your phone to the dash using a holder.
- Select a Bluetooth speaker or earphone that pairs with a phone and offers better sound quality than simply using the phone on speaker mode. Some models must be hardwired into the car stereo, while others are portable.
10. Will the handheld cell phone ban end distracted driving?
Unfortunately, drivers can still be distracted by many things, even if they obey the hands-free law. Their attention can wander while eating or drinking, changing a radio station or adjusting the car’s climate control system. When we share the road, we have a responsibility to others to avoid distractions and to focus on driving.
Just as people still break state law by typing on a phone to text while driving, some drivers will, no doubt, continue to hold on to their cell phones while making calls. If you’ve been injured by someone who was illegally using a cell phone while driving, contact us today. Suk Law Firm has recovered more than $125 million on behalf of clients, and we are ready to assist you.
Besides Rochester, we serve the following major southeast Minnesota cities: Red Wing, Winona, Mankato, Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna, and all outlying communities, as well as the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington. We also serve the Iowa cities of Mason City, Charles City, Osage, Spencer, Garner, Forest City, and Northwood and the Wisconsin cities of La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta, Viroqua, River Falls, Ellsworth, Whitehall, and Black River Falls.
*A note about language:
Federal agencies involved in traffic safety have banned use of the word “accident” for more than 20 years, and with good reason. However, we use the word “accident” on our website, even though we know it has implications that run contrary to our professional thinking and training, because we recognize that “accident” is the word most commonly used in online searches when people are looking for help after being injured in a crash. If you’d like more information about this topic, please see our blog, “Car Accident or Car Crash?”