Hands-Free Bill Passes Committee, Moves to House Floor for Vote

May 10, 2018 06:42 PM

A bill requiring drivers to use cell phones hands-free passed in committee Thursday and is heading to the House floor for a vote.

All but one representative on the House Ways and Means Committee voted in favor of the bill at Thursday's hearing. Just one person testified against it.

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"This bill addresses the biggest single public safety issue that's facing us on our roads today," said Rep. Mark Uglem, R-Champlin, the chief author of the House bill.

The bill has broad bipartisan support.

"This is the fastest growing source of death and injury on our highways," Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minnepolis, told the committee.

Hornstein is also a co-author of the bill.

RELATED: Hands-Free Bill Remains Alive, but No Floor Votes Yet

 

One opponent of the bill testified that he's studied state and federal highway accident data and said they don't show hand-held cell phone use to be a major contributor to accidents.

He urged the legislature to instead craft a bill toughening up the laws against texting while driving.

"The act of talking on a phone while driving is no more a lethal distraction than eating or playing with the radio, activities you are not currently attempting to make illegal," testified Bret Collier of Big Lake.

"The problem is not holding the phone to your ear and talking. It's texting, e-mailing and Snap Chatting. If you're going to pass any legislation to actually reduce cellphone-related driving deaths, let's pass something that will actually do something."

Several others, including the chief of the Minnesota State Patrol, testified in support of the hands-free bill.

Col. Matt Langer said outlawing hand-held cell phone use while driving would also make it easier to enforce the law against texting and driving.

After the hearing, more than a dozen supporters held a press conference to share stories of loved ones involved in deadly car crashes. 

RELATED: Lawmakers Advance Proposal Preventing Protests from Blocking Public Roads

Danielle Wishard-Tudor of Belle Plaine lost her brother Jean Claude to a car crash on Highway 7 in Minnetrista.

Wishard-Tudor said the other driver, a teen, was on the phone.

"Let's get this addiction out of the driver's hands so that we all can be safe and we don't have to pray and have faith that people will remember to not look at that phone," Wishard-Tudor said.

"This is proof that a lot of people can't make that choice."

RELATED: New Prague Woman Whose Husband was Killed by a Distracted Driver Supports 'Hands Free' Bill

While the House bill has bipartisan support, there's a lot of doubt it will even hit the Senate floor with the end of the legislative session looming.

The bill's supporters criticized Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka at Thursday's hearing and press conference.

Afterward, they approached him outside the Senate chambers. Sen. Gazelka wouldn't commit to getting the bill to the Senate floor, but said he is open to considering it.

RELATED: Texting While Driving Citations Up from 2016



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