ST. PAUL — Drivers aren’t allowed to handle their cellphones in Minnesota starting Aug. 1. Here’s what you need to know to comply with the new hands-free law:
Drivers may not hold a cellphone to talk, navigate or use applications while behind the wheel. That means no calls, scrolling, video calls, Snapchat, looking at or taking pictures, reading text messages, web browsing, etc.
There are exceptions for emergencies. Handheld phone use is permitted to call for emergency assistance if there is an immediate threat.
What can I do?
Drivers may use cellphones to make calls, text, listen to music and use navigation, as long as it is one-touch or voice activated and they are not holding the phone. Public safety officials warn that hands-free is not distraction-free.
Can I pull to the shoulder to make a call?
Unless it is an emergency, stopping on the an interstate freeway or controlled access highway is already against state law. It is legal to stop along a state or U.S. highway or county road, but state officials warn that can be dangerous. Public safety officials encourage drivers to find a safe place, such as a parking lot, to stop to handle their cellphone.
What if my car has GPS?
Integrated navigation and other systems, including in-car screens, are exempt from the new law. Some vehicles lock these functions automatically while a vehicle is moving.
Can I use a headscarf or wrap?
Yes, the new law allows drivers to hold a phone to their head using a headscarf or something similar. But drivers must use the phone in a hands-free way unless it is an emergency.
What about a smartwatch?
Smartwatches can be used like a conventional watch to tell time. Any other electronic functions are treated the same way as a cellphone, as drivers must use one-touch or voice commands.
What if I break the law?
Drivers caught handling their phones will receive a warning or $50 ticket on the first offense. After that, the ticket goes up to $275. Drivers who injure or kill someone while holding their phone could face more serious charges.
What's the easiest way to comply?
The State Patrol offers several suggestions to comply with the law:
• Put your phone away.
• Use a single earphone with a microphone. (Wearing two earphones while driving is illegal.)
• Connect your phone to your vehicle if it has the technology.
• Use a cable to connect your phone to your car audio system.
• Use a holder to clip your phone to the dashboard so you can use voice commands.
• Use a Bluetooth earpiece or speaker to pair with your phone.