Police Stepping Up Enforcement of Hands-Free Law During Distracted Driving Awareness Month
On Friday, Minnesota police and state troopers began their monthlong push to educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving and issue warnings and tickets to violators. April is National Distracted Driving Awareness month, when Minnesota and several other states look to crack down on distracted driving.
Under state law, drivers are prohibited from holding a phone. They can use devices that respond to voice commands or a single touch to activate to:
- Make phone calls
- Send text messages
- Listen to music or podcasts
- Get directions to where they are going
However, the law makes it illegal to use the internet, post on social media, stream video or read or write an email while behind the wheel. The first time a driver is caught breaking the law he or she will be fined $100. Subsequent offenses carry a $300 fine plus court costs.
The hands-free law passed in 2019 and it may have contributed to a decline in distracted driving deaths. In 2021, the number of deaths and serious injuries from distracted driving crashes hit a four-year low -- There were 26 distracted driving deaths and 101 serious injuries.
All month long there will be public service announcements sent out on TV and social media and posted on billboards. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar is speaking at a virtual press conference for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The goal of the press conference is to highlight law enforcement strategies for holding distracted drivers accountable and prevent this dangerous behavior.
In previous years, law enforcement efforts only lasted a few days or weeks, but this year it will last the entire month.
Enforcement and education campaigns have been proven to change behavior, according to Mike Hanson, director of Minnesota’s Office of Traffic Safety. Distracted driving crashes still make up about one in nine crashes in the state.
Campaigns like Distracted Driving Awareness month are also necessary because drivers keep coming up with strategies for breaking the law. For example, drivers may hide phones behind gloves, lean them against the steering wheel or put them on their lap.
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