MN Hands-free Driving Law

MN Hands-free Driving Law
Posted on 07/31/2019
The hands-free bill was signed by Gov. Tim Walz on April 12, 2019, and becomes law on Aug. 1, 2019. 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. Here's a few things to know from the Office of Traffic Safety as the new law goes into effect:

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.

If my teen is under 18 years old and has a driver’s permit or provisional driver’s license, can they use their phone in hands-free mode?
The new hands-free law does not change anything for teens under 18 with a driver’s permit or provisional driver’s license.

They cannot make or answer calls while driving (hand-held or hands-free). They can use their phone in hands-free mode in the following situations:
• Using their phone as a GPS device, but only in hands-free or voice-activated mode. They must set their destination before driving. They can’t hold their phone at any time.
• Listening to music or podcasts in hands-free or voice-activated mode is OK, but hand-held scrolling through playlists or channels is not allowed under the law.

Does the new hands-free law address smart watches?
Drivers can use them as a conventional watch to check time, but smart watches are considered an electronic communications device under the hands-free law. That means the device has the same restrictions as a cell phone. Drivers can use a smart watch the same way they use a cell phone as long as it’s by one-touch or voice activation. Drivers can’t type, text or do the other things prohibited under the hands-free law.

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.
At no time may a driver hold the phone in their hand unless it’s 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.

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.