As of August 1, 2019, it will be illegal to use your cellular device with your hands while driving any vehicle in the State of Minnesota for any purpose other than contacting emergency services. This includes your smart-watches as they are considered electronic devices under the law and if you are using it to transmit the same type of data as your cellphone (checking the time on your smart watch is not prohibited, but typing on it would be unless it was on a hands-free typing function).
Any person operating a vehicle in the State of Minnesota caught using any electronic device will be charged with a petty misdemeanor the first offense is punishable by $50 fine, plus court fees. The fine(s) for subsequent charges, or any time caught after the first, shall be $275.00, plus court fees. This law does not apply, however, to law enforcement officers who are performing official duties.
Therefore, what is considered “using an electronic device?” The following actions are listed in Minnesota Statutes as specifically prohibited:
• Initiating a phone call by using your phone in any way other than voice activated or hands free,
• Instant messaging,
• Accessing the internet,
• Manually typing in addresses for navigation,
• Checking your voicemail,
• Watching or looking up videos or photos,
• Video calling (like FaceTime),
• Playing games or using software applications,
• Looking at pictures or,
• Looking up music to play in your car.
You can NOT be charged if you are doing the following:
• Using the voice activation to make phone calls,
• Listening to and responding to texts using hands-free mode,
• Using the navigation in a way that does not require one or both hands or,
• Using voice activation to play music.
Basically, if you have your phone in your hand you can be stopped for violating this law after August 1st. An exception to the rule for calling is that you can make emergency calls. Specifically, you may use your phone to make phone calls with your hands only in instances where you have a reasonable belief that a person’s life or safety is in immediate danger, for contacting emergency services, reporting a traffic incident, preventing a crime about to be committed, also for reporting a serious traffic hazard, or calling for medical emergencies. “One touch” functions will also be allowed, you can access your phone as long as you can do it without typing, scrolling or holding the phone.
The hope is that this new law will increase safety, decrease distracted driving, and provide increased incentive for people to drive without a cell phone in hand.
Born and raised in Western North Dakota, Tatum O'Brien attended North Dakota State University and graduated with distinction from the University of North Dakota School of Law. She has since built years of litigating experience in her home state and become recognized as a highly skilled attorney representing clients in criminal and personal injury cases in addition to helping those who have experienced issues of medical malpractice, serious personal injury, and wrongful death.