Distracted Driving Laws Are Working

Robert Edwards Sept. 21, 2020

The Minneapolis Star Tribune last week published an article discussing the impact that Minnesota’s “hands-free” law appears to be having on distracted driving crashes. Recently Minnesota law enforcement has been conducting a distracted driver education and enforcement campaign that coincides with the one year anniversary of Minnesota’s “hands-free” law. The article went on to note that more than 19,000 drivers have been cited under the law that was effective August 1, 2019, which prohibits drivers behind the wheel from holding a phone or any electronic device. More than 300 state law enforcement agencies were participating in a week-long step up campaign in early August. Under the law, drivers are not allowed to have cell phones or other electronic devices in their hands while at the wheel. You are allowed to touch a phone once to make a call or send voice-activated text messages or listen to podcasts. But multiple touches such as dialing a phone number or punching in GPS coordinates are forbidden. For teenagers the law is even more restrictive, making it illegal to use the phone even in hands-free mode when driving.

The article goes on to note that “distracted driving contributed to 3279 injuries and 32 deaths in 2019.” But in the first 11 months, since the new law went into effect, only 6% of deadly crashes were attributed to distracted driving which is a 4% decrease from the same 11 month period the year before.

The cost of a distracted driving ticket is $50 for the first offense and $275 for each subsequent violation. And insurance rates could very well increase on top of that. Drivers in Minnesota between ages 21 and 40 accounted for 57% of these tickets. Predictably, the most tickets (2730) were written in September 2019, the month after the law went into effect. The fewest number of tickets, 868, was written in April 2020 which was the first month after that pandemic outbreak.