With the enactment of the new “hands-free” cell phone law on August 1, 2019, Minnesota joins 19 other states in an effort to prevent deadly distracted driving crashes by banning the use of hand held cell phones when operating a motor vehicle.
Although AAA supports the new law and efforts to prevent distracted driving crashes, research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that potentially unsafe mental distractions can persist for up to 27 seconds after using voice commands to change music, dial a phone number or send a text. In 27 seconds, traveling at 25 miles per hour, a driver will travel the distance equal to the length of three football fields.
“Just because you can use hands-free technology, doesn’t mean it is safe to do so,” stated Mark Peterson, spokesperson for AAA-The Auto Club Group. “AAA research shows that drivers who use voice-based technology are still distracted. When using this technology, your hands are on the wheel and eyes on the road, but your mind may not be on the task of driving. AAA urges drivers to minimize all distractions while behind the wheel, and focus on the road. Get in the habit of turning the cell phone off or storing it away each time you get behind the wheel. If you must make a call or text someone, drive your car to a safe place and pull off the roadway,” he stated.
The new law prohibits drivers in Minnesota from having a phone in their hand while operating a motor vehicle on the road. A driver may use the phone as a GPS in a hands-free or voice-activated mode only. If a driver needs to see the map, mount the phone to the dashboard. Built-in and or navigation only system are exempt from this law.
Smart watches are considered an electronic communication 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. Drivers can use their phone to obtain emergency assistance or if there is an immediate threat to life and safety.
Parents should remember that under Minnesota’s Graduated Driver License program, teen drivers are not allowed to use cell phones, even with wireless technology.
The penalty for a first conviction of the Hands-free law is $50 plus court fees. Second and subsequent convictions are $275 plus court fees.
It’s estimated that more than 60,000 crashes were distracted driving-related from 2014-2018, contributing to nearly one in five crashes in Minnesota.
Other states with hand-held cellphone laws include: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. Washington, D.C. bans hand-held cellphones, as well.
About The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, insurance, financial services and travel offerings to over 9.9 million members across 11 states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 59 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. Visit AAA on the Internet at AAA.com.