GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — Minnesota's hands-free cell phone law goes into effect on August 1st. Here are some things you need to know.
Keep it simple
The law is intended to keep you off your phone in order to keep the roads free of distracted drivers. The easiest, and cheapest, way to comply is to simply put your phone away while you drive. If you have to respond to a text or call, or if you need to check directions, wait until you are off the road and parked. The law does not allow you to do any of those things while you are simply stopped at a traffic light.
Talking on your phone
The biggest change in the law is that drivers are no longer allowed to hold their phone during a call, or pick it up to answer a call. However, it is still legal to voice activated systems, headsets or earbuds (but not in both ears at the same time because the law requires you to keep one ear free while driving). Technically, drivers are also able to tuck their phone into a hat, headband or hijab in order to speak on the phone, but phone can't obstruct your view and you are not allowed to remove it, or touch it at all, until you are in park.
The law allows you to use your phone for GPS navigation, but you'll likely need a mount or clip to keep it visible in your car because you are not allowed to hold the phone or type in any addresses while driving. If you need to change destinations, you are allowed to use one-touch activation for voice commands only.
Videos and other apps
Beyond navigation, the law does not allow drivers to use their phones for other purposes that might distract them from driving. That means even if your phone is mounted on your dash, you are not allowed to play videos, stream programming or take video calls. You can listen to podcasts or other audio content but, again, you can't have earbuds in both ears.
Bluetooth Integrated Radios
The law allows more leeway for calls made through integrated car audio systems. If you don't have a radio that connects or syncs to your phone, you can buy kits that can add that feature. You can also buy a new audio system. Mobile Installation Services, in Brooklyn Park, told KARE11 that those kits and radios start at about $290 with installation included, but they can climb in price quickly depending on the technology and the type of vehicle you have.
The fine if you are caught breaking the hands-free law is $50 for your first violation, but it jumps to $275 for each violation after that.
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