Now that the fourth of July holiday weekend is over, we’re nearing the date when all Minnesota drivers need to be aware of a huge law change. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed the Hands-Free Law on April 12, 2019, and its enforcement starts on August 1, 2019. Many other states have issued similar laws, so the introduction of a law in Minnesota that prevents drivers from using their cell phone while out on the roadways has been a long time in coming. However, the law is a very necessary one.
What’s the Law About?
Under the new Hands-Free Law, drivers cannot hold their phones at all when in motion. The use of a phone in an emergency situation is allowable. So, make sure you don’t hold your phone when you drive. Instead, try to use your vehicle’s system for calls, or take phone calls through a single earphone or Bluetooth. You also are allowed to mount your phone on your car’s dash or on the air vents, which will come in handy if you need to use navigation, which is allowed, but you still want to keep the phone out of your hands.
Will the Law Help?
The standard American motorist spends about 17% of their driving time on their phone. In Minnesota, drivers spend about 15% of their time on the phones. Statistics in Minnesota over the past few years show that impaired driving is declining, but the use of a phone while driving is on the rise. 25,000 Minnesotans are typically arrested each year for impaired driving. A third of those individuals arrested for drunk driving, or about 7,357 drivers were also given tickets for texting and driving.
The increase in texting while driving has many law enforcement officials very concerned. From 2014 to 2018, Minnesota experiences over 60,000 crashes total that involved motorists that were texting while driving. That adds up to about one in five crashes in the state of Minnesota being caused by texting while driving. Also from 2017 to 2018, the amount of texting while driving traffic citations increased by 30%. Every year, about 2,014 citizens experience a life-changing injury related to texting while driving. Since the previous state law covering distracted driving wasn’t a hands-free law and related more to texting while driving, adding more restrictions to the use of phones while driving could benefit many Minnesotans. Law enforcement officials in the state feel that the new law will help to curb the use of a cell phone while driving and expect that many lives will be saved once the law comes into effect.
It seems likely that Minnesota’s law enforcement will be most likely correct after the new law passes. States that already have hands-free driving laws have seen a drop in fatalities related to distracted driving by about 15%. Also, over the past year and a half, three other states passed similar distracted driving laws (Georgia, Rhode Island, and Oregon). All three of those states have experienced a decrease in distracted driving by around 20% after the new law passed.