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Park the Phone: Avoid Slipping Back into Old Habits by Going Hands Free

Aug 03, 2020 07:54AM ● By Editor

From the Minnesota Department of Public Safety - August 1, 2020

Minnesotans should be getting into the habit of parking the phone after one year of the hands-free cell phone law. Unfortunately, drivers may be slipping back into old habits, risking the lives of innocent motorists.

Law enforcement agencies and traffic safety partners across Minnesota will participate in extra hands-free and distracted driving enforcement and awareness beginning Aug. 1. The goal is to remind motorists about the law and educate Minnesotans about the importance of driving smart. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety coordinates the campaign and distributes funds provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“Slipping back into old habits is easy,” said Mike Hanson, Office of Traffic Safety director. “Some old habits might make you gain weight or go into debt, but slipping back into manipulating your phone while driving could cost you your life. Recommit to driving distraction-free and go hands free with your cell phone. Together we can save lives.”  

Hands-Free Cell Phone Law

The Minnesota hands-free law went into effect on Aug. 1, 2019. State Patrol troopers and law enforcement officers throughout Minnesota have seen an increasing number of drivers using hands-free options such as mounts and holders. Some drivers cited for breaking the law say they are having a hard time breaking the habit. Other drivers stopped have phone holders in the vehicle but aren’t using them, or they think law enforcement isn’t conducting traffic stops during the pandemic. 

During the first 11 months of the hands-free law, 19,160 drivers were cited for failing to comply with the law.

Hands-Free Citations by Month Aug. 1, 2019-June 30, 2020

Aug.Sept.Oct.Nov.Dec.Jan.Feb. MarchAprilMayJuneTotal

**57 percent of all citations are from those 21 to 40-years-old

Drive Smart and Park the Phone 

Most Minnesotans understand parking the phone allows drivers to focus on the road. Early indications show the hands-free law may be making a difference in distraction-related crashes.

Hands-Free Cell Phone Law Do’s and Don’ts 

  • Don’t hold your phone while driving. 
  • You can place your phone anywhere in the vehicle as long as you are not holding it with your hand. If mounted on the windshield, it must be in the lower part of the windshield, not obstructing your view. 
  • The new law allows a driver to use their cell phone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and get directions, but only by voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone. 
  • Drivers may not use their phone at any time for video calling, video live-streaming, Snapchat, gaming, looking at video or photos stored on the phone, using non-navigation apps, reading texts and scrolling or typing on the phone.
  • GPS devices and other systems that can only be used for navigation are exempt from the hands-free law. In-car screens and systems are also exempt. In both cases, most of these systems lock when the vehicle is moving.
  • Hand-held phone use is allowed to obtain emergency assistance, if there is an immediate threat to life and safety, or when in an authorized emergency vehicle while performing official duties.
  • More FAQs are available at

Hands-Free Cell Phone Consequences 

  • Penalties for this violation can include:
    • More than $120 that includes the fine plus court costs for a first offense. 
    • More than $300 that includes the fine plus court costs for a subsequent offense.
    • Potential for increased insurance rates. 
    • If you injure or kill someone under the hands-free law, you can face a felony charge of criminal vehicular operation or homicide.

Drive Smart: Drive Distraction-Free 

Drive smart means parking the phone, setting the GPS and music before driving, keeping your eyes on the road during a conversation in the vehicle, not reaching down for an object on the floor, not eating messy food that could spill and take your attention off the road, and the list goes on. Drive smart simply means putting all the distractions away and focusing on the road.

Too many drivers fail to drive smart and it takes on even greater importance as Minnesotans need healthcare and emergency resources focused on COVID-19. Distracted driving-related crashes claim an average of 41 lives each year. This causes a lifetime of grief and pain for the families left behind and an untold story of what could have been. 

Distracted Driving is Dangerous Driving

  • More than 50,000 crashes were distracted driving-related from 2015-2019 contributing to one in seven crashes in Minnesota.
  • Distracted driving contributed to 3,279 injuries and 32 deaths in 2019.
  • Distracted driving contributes to an average of 40 deaths and 195 life-changing injuries a year (2015 – 2019).
Distracted Driving20152016201720182019Total
Serious Injuries173254218179149973


Drive Smart and Join Minnesotans Driving Distracted-Free

  • Cell phones — Park the phone by putting it down, turning it off, placing it out of reach or going hands free. 
  • Music and other controls — Pre-program radio stations and arrange music in an easy-to-access spot. Adjust mirrors and ventilation before traveling.
  • Navigation — Map out the destination and enter the GPS route in advance.
  • Eating and drinking — Avoid messy foods and secure drinks. 
  • Children — Teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle and model proper driving behavior. 
  • Passengers — Speak up to stop drivers from distracted driving behavior and offer to help with anything that takes the driver’s attention off the road.

About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) comprises 10 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.

About the Office of Traffic Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS-OTS) designs, implements and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. DPS-OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for child seats for the needy families program.

Dave Boxum  651-201-7569
[email protected]
Scott Wasserman  651-201-7571
[email protected]
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