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DPS conducting hands-free law enforcement campaign Aug. 1-8

Staff Writer
Redwood Falls Gazette
Twelve months ago Minnesota enacted a hands-free cell phone law when behind the wheel.

It’s been a long year, and motorists tend to slip back into old habits as time goes on.

Twelve months ago Minnesota enacted a hands-free cell phone law when behind the wheel.

One year later, law enforcement reports seeing more and more drivers going back to their old ways.

To remind motorists about the law and to help educate the public on the importance of driving smart, Southwest Minnesota Safe Roads coalitions, along with law enforcement agencies and traffic safety partners across Minnesota, are participating in extra hands-free and distracted driving enforcement and awareness as of Aug. 1.

The enforcement campaign, which runs through Aug. 8, is coordinated and funded by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety.

“Slipping back into old habits is easy,” said Captain Casey Meagher of the Minnesota State Patrol. “While going back to some old habits might make you gain weight or go into debt, slipping back into manipulating your phone while driving could cost you your life. Re-commit to driving distraction-free by going hands-free with your cell phone. Together we can save lives.”

Hands-Free cell phone law

The Minnesota hands-free law went into effect Aug. 1, 2019.

State Patrol troopers and law enforcement officers throughout Minnesota have seen an increasing number of drivers using hands-free options, such as mounts. 

However, some drivers cited say they know about the new law but are having a hard time breaking the habit or have been slipping back into old habits.

Other drivers stopped have phone holders in the vehicle but aren’t using them, or they think law enforcement isn’t conducting traffic stops during the pandemic.

During the first 11 months of the hands-free law, law enforcement cited 19,160 drivers for failing to comply with the law. The new law allows a driver to use their cell phone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and get directions, but only by voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone.

Remember, hands-free is not necessarily distraction-free. Driving smart and focusing 100 percent of your attention on the road can help avoid tragedy for everyone sharing the road. Distracted driving-related crashes claim an average of 41 lives and 200 life-changing injuries each year.

Driving smart means setting the radio, streaming music or GPS before one starts driving, keeping their eyes on the road during a conversation in the vehicle, not reaching down for an object on the floor, not eating messy food that could spill and take one’s attention off the road.

All these activities behind the wheel are behaviors that could lead to a crash. You don’t want to be that person who takes another life or your own.

Drive smart by always paying attention behind the wheel.

Learn more at dps.mn.gov.

- Image courtesy of the Internet Public Domain