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State Patrol warns drivers to change dangerous driving behaviors in advance of new hands-free law

May 08, 2019 06:46 PM

The Minnesota State Patrol is reminding drivers that changing potentially dangerous driving behaviors needs to be a top priority in advance of the state's new hands-free cellphone law taking effect on Aug. 1.

Under the new law, it will be illegal in Minnesota to hold your cell phone while behind the wheel. Phones must be in Bluetooth mode or activated by voice commands. Exceptions will be made to call 911 or to use GPS with one-touch navigation features.

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The state patrol and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety kicked off an education campaign with a Facebook Live Q&A Wednesday afternoon, taking questions about how the new law will work.

"If you are using the cell phone as a navigation instrument, you can use it that way," Minnesota Traffic Safety Director Mike Hanson said during the Facebook broadcast. "But the caution with the cell phone is it has to be operated in a hands-free or voice-activated mode."

RELATED: Walz signs bill requiring drivers to use hands-free devices

They stressed drivers cannot hold a phone or digital device in their hands for any reason, even while stopped at a stoplight. And they made clear the new law will be enforced beginning the first day.

"We don't want any Minnesotan to be surprised by the new law," said Col. Matt Langer, the State Patrol Chief. "So there will be enforcement starting Aug, 1. It could be a citation. It could a warning. That's exactly why we're working so hard from now through the summer to Aug. 1 and beyond to educate as much as we can."

A DPS release Wednesday stated officers, deputies and troopers already cited 1,927 motorists for texting and driving during a three-week distracted driving extra enforcement campaign that ran April 8-30.

That was up from the 1,576 who were cited during last year's two-week campaign.

The release also pointed out examples of drivers who were stopped - including a 32-year-old female in Blaine who was allegedly watching an episode of the television series "Parks and Recreation," a 21-year-old male in Duluth who was allegedly on Facebook sharing a photo of a shirt he had just purchased and an 18-year-old woman stopped on Highway 169 near St. Peter who is alleged to have been driving 96 mph while video chatting on FaceTime.

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