Hands-free on Aug. 1

Texting and driving has been a discussion between many parents and children. But the discussion has now opened up to young and old alike as Gov. Tim Walz signed the new “Hands-Free Law” on April 12, 2019 that will go into effect this Thursday, Aug. 1.

We know that distracted driving can kill.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, more than 60,000 crashes were distracted driving-related from 2014 to 2018, contributing to nearly one in five crashes in Minnesota. And distracted driving contributes to an average of 45 deaths and 204 life-changing injuries a year (from 2014 to 2018).

Texting citations show a disturbing trend in Minnesota, climbing 30 percent from 2014 to 2018. In 2013, there were 2,177 texting citations given out; in 2014, there were 3,498; in 2015, there were 4,115; in 2016, there were 5,988; in 2017, there were 7,357; and in 2018, there were 9,545 texting citations issued.

In 12 of 15 states with hands-free laws, traffic fatalities have decreased by an average of 15 percent according to the National Safety Council.

So what do we do now? Even if we’re not texting and driving, most of us are guilty of talking on our phones or shuffling through our music playlists while driving. The new bill says no more, however.

We can still use our phones but in a different way which will take effort on our part to make the transition. We can still make calls, texts, listen to music or get directions but only by voice commands or single-touch activation … without holding the phone.

The law says we may not hold our phones in our hands or use our phones for video calling, video live-streaming, Snapchat, gaming, looking at photos, taking photos, reading or sending texts, scrolling through websites or any other purpose we use our phones for.

The only allowable reason to hold our phones is in an emergency situation where we need to dial 911 when there is a threat to life and safety.

Tips for making the

hands-free transition

from the Department

of Public Safety

• Don’t use your phone when you drive. Put your phone in the glove compartment or trunk or backseat or turn on a do-not-disturb app and enjoy the drive. It’s free, and you will be surprised at how many new sights you will see on your drive. A number of large, successful companies have adopted no-phone-use policies for their employees while driving on company time, and after getting used to it, employees report being happier and at least as productive as when they used their phones.

• Use a single earphone that has a microphone. Remember, using earphones in both ears at the same time is illegal in Minnesota.

• Pair your phone to your current car or truck. If your existing vehicle and phone can talk to each other, pair your device with your vehicle.

• Buy an auxiliary cable and connect your phone’s earphone jack to your car’s AUX jack. You can operate your phone by voice or single touch and listen through your car’s audio system. Auxiliary cables can be purchased for less than $5.

If your car is older and doesn’t have an AUX jack but has a cassette player, you can buy an adapter that fits into the cassette player and allows you to connect your phone through the earphone jack. The cassette adapters cost about $30.

• Buy a holder to clip your phone to the dash. You can use it in a voice-activated or single-touch mode. Clips can be simple and cheap or complicated. Make sure you get one that holds your phone securely. Prices range from less than $5 to $50.

• Buy a Bluetooth speaker or earphone to pair with your phone. There are many after-market choices for both, all of which let you go hands-free. Prices are generally in the $10 to $50 range.

If given a citation, the first ticket is $50 plus court fees, and the second and later tickets are $275 plus court fees.

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