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House approval pushes hands-free cellphone legislation closer to becoming state law

April 09, 2019 06:26 PM

The Minnesota House has passed legislation that only allows hands-free use of devices while driving.

The vote Tuesday morning was 107-19 in favor of the bill.

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"After states have passed hands-free (laws), fatalities and injuries have gone down dramatically," the House author of the bill, Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, said during a House floor debate Tuesday morning.

Although the bill passed by a wide margin with bipartisan support, there was some resistance.

"The bill is not ready for prime time, members," said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, who says the bill isn't clear enough to enforce.

"We have so many questions about what this bill is doing I'm just shocked that it's passed the floor," said Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal. It went to the Senate, they've somehow made this smarter and brought it back to us and we still have a plethora of questions. There seems to be a lot of confusion over what's legal, what's not."

The bill is fairly straightforward. It says "when a motor vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic, the person operating the vehicle while upon a street or highway is prohibited from using a wireless communications device" unless "in a voice-activated or other hands-free mode."

That includes prohibitions on accessing the internet, watching video and other distractions that require a driver to look at the device. Audio podcasts would still be allowed as long as the driver can activate it by voice or with "one-touch" technology. The same goes for using a GPS on your phone or one that's built into your vehicle.

The only exceptions for hand-held use would be for making emergency calls to report an accident or a crime. Police officers, firefighters and EMT's would be allowed to use hand-held phones during the course of their official duties.

The bill also would continue to allow citizen band radios and other two-way radios.

The fine for a first offense remains at $50, but a second offense goes from $225 to $275. A separate bill that passed the Senate Monday would create much tougher penalties, especially when distracted driving causes an accident resulting in death or serious injury.


The states seen below in blue already have hands-free laws on the books.  If signed into law by Governor Tim Walz, Minnesota would become only the second state in the midwest with a similar law, Illinois being the first.  In addition to the 17 states below, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin islands also have hands-free laws.


The Senate is expected to take up the hands-free measure, which now cannot be amended, Thursday and Gov. Tim Walz is expected to sign the legislation on Friday.

The heartbreak and anguish and unimaginable pain that came out of families of people who were lost due to distracted driving they really came here and made this happen," the governor said on Tuesday.

RELATED: Hands-free cell phone bill likely to become state law

Minnesota lawmakers have debated the issue for years, and those in favor of only allowing hands-free devices say the measure will cut down on distracted driving and save lives.

The House and Senate banned texting and driving several years ago.


More from KSTP.com:

Minnesota Senate backs hands-free phoning-while-driving bill

Minnesota House backs hands-free cellphone rule for driving


On Monday, a bill calling for harsher penalties after distracted driving crashes that result in great bodily harm also passed in the Senate.

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Rebecca Omastiak

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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