News

Complying with the New Hands-free Cellphone Driving Law

April 26, 2019
Closeup shot of a man using a phone to find directions while driving, hands-free cellphone dock used
Prepare for new hands-free cellphone driving law by reviewing and updating policies regarding mobile phone use while driving for work purposes.

Minnesota became the 16th state to prohibit driving while holding a cellphone when the law was signed by Governor Tim Walz April 12. The law takes effect Aug. 1, 2019.

Based on the results of similar laws in other states, it is anticipated that this law will decrease Minnesota traffic fatalities by 15 percent. Because drivers are not allowed to have phones in their hands, it will be easier for law enforcement to see violations and take more effective action.

Common Questions About the Hands-free Law*

What can drivers do under the new law?
The new law allows drivers to use their cell phones 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.

What can’t drivers do with their phones under the new law?
Drivers may not hold phones in their hands. Also drivers may not use their phones at any time for video calling, video live-streaming, Snapchat, gaming, looking at videos or photos stored on the phone, using apps, reading texts and scrolling or typing on the phone.

Can drivers ever hold their phones?
Yes. Hand-held phone use is allowed to obtain emergency assistance if there is an immediate threat to life and safety, or when in an authorized emergency vehicle while performing official duties.

Can drivers use a GPS navigation device?
Yes. GPS and other systems that can only be used for navigation are exempt from the hands-free law. In-car screens and systems are also exempt. In both cases, most of these systems lock when the vehicle is moving.

Why aren’t other distractions, such as in-car screens, eating, grooming, pets, passengers or reading a book, covered under this law?
Many possible distractions when driving exist, but cellphone use presents a unique and complex challenge and is addressed by the hands-free law. A driver is still expected to avoid other distractions and drive with due care under other Minnesota traffic laws.

Are there penalties?
Yes. The first ticket is $50 plus court fees, and the second and later tickets are $275 each plus court fees.


More Information About Hands-free Law

The Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety continually updates its website with information and resources about the new hands-free cellphone law and what Minnesotans need to know. Members can check it out at HandsFreeMN.org.


Employer Actions

Public entities that own vehicles or have employees drive their own vehicles for business purposes need to take steps to help ensure that employees comply with the hands-free law:

  • Review and make changes to any existing policies or create new policies regarding the use of cellphones and GPS devices while driving for business purposes, ensuring that policies are at least as stringent as the new state law.
  • Determine how the updated or new policies will be communicated to employees and methods to ensure that employees understand and acknowledge the policies.
  • Review how compliance with policies will be supported, such as allowing and training employees to pair their phones to vehicles, equipping vehicles with cellphone holders and providing auxiliary cables as necessary.
  • Confirm that the adherence to and enforcement of policies are consistent throughout the organization.

Driving Safety Resources

  • MCIT loss control consultants: Members should contact their MCIT loss control consultant at 1.866.547.6516 for more information about motor vehicle safety training resources available through MCIT.
  • Minnesota Safety Council: MCIT provides each of its members with an annual Minnesota Safety Council membership. This partnership gives members access to no-cost or reduced-fee safety services, including training classes and videos, consultation services and written educational resources. Safe driving resources, including sample distracted driving policies, are available. Members can contact the Minnesota Safety Council at 651.291.9150 or visit MinnesotaSafetyCouncil.org.

*Source: Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety: HandsFreeMN.org.