April 08, 2019 07:13 PM
For several years Minnesota lawmakers have debated whether to only allow hands-free use of cell phones and other digital devices while driving. Now they're a major step closer to making that the state law in Minnesota.
"I think it's a very big deal," says Republican John Jasinski of Faribault.
Jasinski served on a House-Senate conference committee that passed the bill Monday afternoon and paved the way for votes on the Housse and Senate floors. It essentially bans the use of hand-held cell phones and other digital devices for talking, texting, accessing apps or streaming of video and audio.
A tearful Kevin Donnelly, whose nephew was killed by a distracted driver, says he is grateful the voices of victims are finally being heard.
"My nephew David, he was killed, I believe it was five years now, by a texting driver in front of his house," Donnelly told 5 Eyewitness News after the hearing.
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Another bill passed the Minnesota Senate Monday afternoon that calls for much harsher penalties for crashes that cause great bodily harm when the driver is using a cell phone or texting.
"If you are found to be non-hands-free and you get into an accident using your cell phone, you're going to be treated like a drunk driver," said bill author Sen. Dave Osmek, (R)-Mound. "So, if you injure someone or kill someone we're going to have some of the stiffest penalties in the nation."
The bill passed 56 to 9, but even supporters were concerned the bill might go too far.
"We have to get people to put the phone down," said Sen. Jerry Relph, (R-St. Cloud). "I concern myself, however, that we have equated driving under the influence of alcohol with using a cell phone."
It's possible both the hands-free bill and the harsher penalty bill could pass and become law. The hands-free bill doesn't have penalties as harsh as the other bill.
A source close to Governor Tim Walz says it's possible the hands-free bill could be signed into law on Friday if it passes the House and Senate floors in the next couple days. It would take effect Aug.1.
Updated: April 08, 2019 07:13 PM
Created: April 08, 2019 06:19 PM
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