MINNEAPOLIS — There are reports on social media of a "hijab exception" or a "Muslim exception" to Minnesota's new hands-free law.
Those claims are false.
Driving with a phone inside a hijab, or head scarf, is currently legal in Minnesota, and it will remain so when the hand-held cell phone ban becomes law.
The social media confusion stems from an amendment added to the Senate version of the hands-free bill. It clarified that the term "hands-free" includes "the use of a scarf or hijab or other item of clothing to hold a phone in a hands-free manner."
It's common for Muslim women in Minnesota and throughout the Arab world to tuck phones into their hijabs while driving, so they can keep both hands on the wheel.
Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, a Minneapolis Democrat, wasn't seeking to exempt those women from the hands-free bill, which bars people from holding phones with their hands.
He said he wanted the language in the law just to made it clear, so that Muslim women wouldn't have to worry about being pulled over for using their hijabs to hold phones.
The Senate agreed with the new language Champion proposed, but it didn't make it into the final version of the bill.
The House-Senate conference committee on HF 50 stripped the hijab language from measure after hearing from the chief of the Minnesota State Patrol that wasn't really needed.
Col. Matt Langer said the new law prohibits drivers from holding phones in their hands while their cars are moving, but it doesn't dictate where they put their phones while they're using them in a hands-free manner.
"You’d be complying if you were able to have the phone into some type of head garment, as you long as you can get in and out of it by single-touch activations," Col. Langer told the conference committee.
He said the violation would come if drivers pull the phones out of their scarfs and use their hands to initiate a new conversation while the car is still moving. Those women would be allowed to end and start calls using one-touch activation features of the phone, which is the same rule that applies to all drivers.