McKichan: ‘Put away electronic devices while driving’

Published 9:54 am Saturday, May 11, 2019

Local law enforcement issued seven citations during a ramped up distracted driving enforcement period from April 8-30, according to Austin Police Chief David McKichan.

Austin Police Chief David McKichan

The enforcement period was part of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety’s Toward Zero Deaths campaign, a statewide effort that sees law enforcement focusing heavily on distracted and reckless driving throughout Minnesota for extended periods of time.

“I think we need to note how important it is for us to all choose to put our electronic devices away while in the car,” McKichan said. “That will be especially true as we head for the implementation of the new hands free law. While enforcement can be difficult under the current law, it will become much easier when the new law takes effect. It is a good idea to begin implementing those hands free steps now, thereby potentially avoiding a future citation, but more importantly helping to make our roads safer for all.”

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During the enforcement period, Austin police and Mower County deputies dedicated 12 hours of overtime to focus on stopping distracted and reckless drivers. During that time, 26 stops were made.

Law enforcement issued citations for:

  • Speeding – 4
  • Driving after license revocation – 2
  • Distracted driving – 1

Statewide, law enforcement cited 1,927 motorists for texting and driving and issued 2,302 seatbelt citations.

Minnesota’s new hands-free cell phone law takes effect on Aug. 1. 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.

A driver also may not use their phone at any time for video calling, video live-streaming, Snapchat, gaming, looking at video or photos stored on the phone, using non-navigation apps, reading texts and scrolling or typing on the phone.

The only conditions in which hand-held phone use is allowed under the new law is 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.