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The how-to on hands-free

Hands-free enforcement starts August 1. Do you know all the rules?

ST PAUL, Minn. — Public safety officials warn, soon enough you'll bee seeing hands-free notices everywhere.

"You're going to see a large media campaign that is going to be waged across the state with the sole purpose of making sure that every Minnesotan has the information they need," Director of the office of traffic safety Mike Hanson said. 

With the days rapidly counting down until August 1, here are some technical questions answered. 

"Can I use my phone as a GPS? The answer is you can, as long as you're using it in hands-free mode," Head of MN State Patrol Col. Matt Langer said. "Entering the address before you leave is preferred."

If you need to change the address while you're driving, you can, as long as you use voice recognition.

"So you may have to touch your phone once to get it to wake up, you may have to touch it again to speak that voice command," Col. Langer said. "That's legal, using single-touch activation. Which is different than touching the phone only once."

Some other technicalities:

If you are driving in your car, you can't talk on a handheld device, but you can use earbuds or headphones, as long as you have one ear free. You can also use a headband, a head scarf, hijab to hold your phone in place to talk on the phone, as long as the piece of clothing is not obscuring your view. 

Smartwatches are also being treated the same way. Department of Public Safety officials say you can check the time on your smartwatch as well as quickly read a text that displays on your watch. However, you cannot respond to that text or operate the smartwatch in any way. 

"One easy way to strip right down to the brass tacks is to say you can't hold the phone while you are driving," Langer said. 

"This is a change in culture, a change in attitude," President of the Minnesota Trucking Association John Hausladen said. "It's making a decision to make a call before you even leave, leaving time before you get to the destination on the back end, building in time to make the call after you arrive."

Langer added that the starting August 1, a first offense will be a $130 fine, and subsequent offenses will jump to about $300.

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