Minnesota drivers have to be Hands-Free as of August 2019, so we talked to Minnesota Safety Council’s President, Paul Aasen for answers to common questions and how this law applies when driving farm equipment on public roadways.
What is ‘Hands-Free’?
Effective August 1, 2019, Hands-Free Minnesota asked Minnesota drivers to get the phone out of their hands. This cell phone law’s purpose was to get drivers to put cell phones down and not have it in hand for use- phone calls, texts, navigation. Phones can now only be touched for single-touch activation. Single-touch activation allows drivers a single touch to unlock the phone or activate voice command. Anything beyond a single touch- a word or a phrase- is well past the legislative intent.
Does Hands-Free apply to driving tractors?
Hands-free applies to anyone in agriculture. Driving farm machinery or farm vehicles on public roadways, even when crossing or driving on the shoulder, means the drivers have to follow the hands-free law. Law enforcement watches for bad driving behaviors and then tries to determine if a person is impaired, confused or is distracted with a phone in their hand.
Penalties for a first offense are 50 plus court (close to $200). A second offense will cost you $275 plus court fees (closer to $500).
HANDS-FREE MYTHS AND FACTS FOR DRIVERS UNDER 18
What is the history of this law?
This law has been years in the making. Since the iPhone was introduced in 2007, traffic crash information has shown an uptick in injuries, crashes, and fatalities. As these crashes ramped up, Minnesota implemented a texting ban. This ban allowed voice phone calls, but was difficult to enforce. Following numerous other states, and overall support throughout the state, Minnesota moved to hands-free mode.
In ¾ of states with hands-free, there is a 15% reduction in fatalities. In Minnesota, this means 50-60 fewer deaths per year.
Do you need help with the Hands-Free transition?
The best thing is make sure you have a setup that works. Connect your phone to your vehicle bluetooth, add a small bluetooth speaker (often ~$20), choose to use one of your earphones, etc. Work on finding that solution that works in your vehicle so you know it works, and you’re comfortable with it.
The Minnesota Safety Council is a 91 year old nonprofit charged by state legislature with preventing unintentional injuries in the workplace, on road and at home. The organization spends their time and energy making sure people are safe wherever they are. Special thanks to Paul Aasen, President of the Minnesota Safety Council, for his insight on Hands-Free Minnesota.