Minnesota’s Hands-Free Driving Law: What It Is And How To Avoid A Ticket

Posted June 19, 2019.

If you live in the state of Minnesota, you may or may not have heard of the new Hands-Free Cell Phone bill. Governor Tim Walz signed the bill into law on April 12, 2019. It goes into effect on August 1, 2019, and it’s important for Minnesota drivers to know what is and isn’t included in the law before it goes into effect.

Within the first six months of 2019, distracted driving was the cause of nine fatal accidents. While drunk driving and speeding still cause more fatalities, cell phones are not far behind. According to the Department of Public Safety, cell phones are the fastest-growing distraction to drivers. The National Safety Council reports that one out of every four accidents in the United States is the result of texting and driving.

What Is “Hands-Free” Driving?

Chapter 11, H.F. 50 states that your phone cannot be in your hand while driving. However, “one-touch functions” are still allowed as long as the phone is accessed without holding it, typing or scrolling. Since drivers shouldn’t have anything in their hands, it will be easier for law enforcement officials to detect if someone is violating the law.

How Can I Use My Phone Under The “Hands-Free” Driving Law?

You can still use your phone while driving to make calls, text, play music and get directions. However, you can only do this through voice commands or single-touch activation. Permanently-mounted GPS devices are also considered acceptable. In the case of emergency calls and reporting hazardous road conditions, drivers may still use their handheld device.

What Can’t I Use My Phone For Under The “Hands-Free” Driving Law?

The state of Minnesota already bans texting, emailing or web browsing while driving. Under the Hands-Free Law, drivers may send texts or emails as long as their phone is in hands-free or voice-activated mode. If your phone does not have this technology, then you cannot use it for any of these functions. The bottom line is that your phone cannot be in your hand while you’re operating a motor vehicle.

Are There Penalties?

Yes. For a first offense, the ticket for violating the law is $50, not including court fees. After this, tickets are $275 plus court fees. Because the hands-free law passed at the state level, it is now of the primary enforcement type. This means that law enforcement officers can issue a citation for using a handheld device without any other traffic offense having taken place.

How To Go Hands-Free

If you do not own a car with Bluetooth capabilities, then you must be able to control your phone through voice commands. In order to control your phone with voice commands, you'll need a device to hold it so that it’s not in your hand.

While your phone probably won’t get you in trouble yet, you should make sure that you understand what Hands-Free driving entails so that you’re prepared come August. If you do receive a ticket for violating this law, make sure that you pay it in time to avoid unpaid traffic tickets. If you have been charged with violating the hands-free driving law, contact Bruno Law.

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