Texting citations trend upward during extra enforcement; Hands-free cell phone law to take effect in August

Published 8:40 am Thursday, May 9, 2019

As law enforcement agencies discovered during the extra distracted driving enforcement campaign, too many Minnesotans are treating drive time as down time instead of focusing on the number one task in their vehicle — driving.

Officers, deputies and troopers cited 1,927 motorists for texting and driving during the three-week extra enforcement campaign (April 8-30), compared with 1,576 cited during last year’s two-week campaign. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) extended this year’s campaign to three weeks, compared with two weeks in 2018 and 2017, and one week in previous years.

This allowed for additional education and enforcement around a dangerous behavior that is trending the wrong direction. More than 300 law enforcement agencies participated during the extra enforcement campaign in April.

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In addition to texting citations, there were 2,302 seat belt citations issued during the three-week campaign, compared with 1,883 in 2018.

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. Drivers may not hold their phone in their hand. 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.

Under the new law, 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.