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The 'hands-free' law is about to get even more strict here in Minnesota, thanks to a new provision passed by the state Legislature last month.

Minnesota has had a 'hands-free' law on the books for nearly four years. According to the Minnesota House Research Department, the original legislation passed in 2019 tried to crack down on distracted driving by making it illegal for drivers to use hand-held cell phones while behind the wheel.

While it had been previously illegal to text while driving here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the 2019 law also increased restrictions on using ALL mobile devices. Essentially, the law means that when a motor vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic, it is illegal for a driver to use a cell phone or other electronic mobile device while holding it.

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And while there were a few exceptions, like single-touch GPS map use-- as long as the driver wasn't holding the device-- listening to audio content, or calling 911 in the event of an emergency, you weren't supposed to even hold your phone while driving. (And 'driving' also means when your vehicle is stopped at a stop sign or red traffic light, btw.)

However, according to this Minn Post story, the way the law was written in 2019 led some officials to believe police had to prove a driver was not only holding but also USING their phone to be violating the law (even if that wasn't really the case.) That's now been changed, though.

Minn Post reports that a new provision, passed as part of the 2023 transportation omnibus bill, states things more clearly:

When a motor vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic, the person operating the vehicle on a street​ or highway is prohibited from​ holding a wireless communications device with one or both hands...

This means to give you a ticket, police across the North Star State beginning August 1st, 2023 only have to see you with your phone in either (or both) hands-- and don't have to prove that you were also actually using your device to do any of the illegal activities covered by the existing law (like texting, scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram or anything else.)

So while the new provision isn't actually new, it DOES clear up a few ambiguities in the original law. The bottom line? Don't be on your phone while you're behind the wheel! Minn Post goes into much more detail about the new provision HERE.

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