If you have driven around Otter Tail County the last few weeks, you may have noticed signage that mentions the new hands-free law that went into effect today.

The Minnesota Legislature passed the law back in April with bipartisan support. Gov. Tim Walz signed it into law shortly after. Minnesota will now become the 18th state to adopt such a law.

If you don’t know the specifics of the new law it isn’t simply not using your cellphone in the car. The law states that drivers can only use their mobile phones if they have single-touch or voice operation in their cars. Drivers cannot hold a phone in their hands for any reason including calls, texts and video streaming.

There are exceptions to the rule though. Navigation systems are exempt from the law, but the Minnesota Department of Public Safety states that when the car is in motion, these systems usually lock. Also, emergency phone calls are exempt.

Driver’s who do not have newer vehicles also have the option of using hands-free devices such as Bluetooth devices, phone clips and AUX cables. This only applies to driver’s 18 and older as those under the age of 18 cannot make or receive calls, hands-free or not.

According to the Department of Public Safety, distracted driving incidents have increased over four times in six years. In 2012, there were 2,177 citations for distracted driving, while 2018 saw a boom in that number to 9,545. The DPS states that 1 in 5 crashes in the state from 2014-18 were caused by distracted driving.

We applaud the state for taking a stand against distracted driving and making our roadways safer across Minnesota.

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