Hands on the wheel and off the phone may become more than just a good idea if a bill approved by the House Transportation and Regional Governance Policy Committee Friday becomes law.
Sponsored by Rep. Mark Uglem (R-Champlin), HF1180 would make handheld cell phone use illegal when operating a motor vehicle. Phones could be used in hands-free mode and in some emergency situations. Devices that function solely for GPS or navigation purposes could also still be used.
The bill was referred to the House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee. Its companion, SF837, is sponsored by Sen. Jim Carlson (DFL-Eagan) and awaits action by the Senate Transportation Finance and Policy Committee.
Bill proponents say it would make the roads safer by reducing distracted driving, keeping a driver’s hands on the wheel, and also by making it easier for law enforcement to spot violations.
“It’s simple, two hands on the wheel are better than one or none,” Uglem said.
Several families who lost loved ones to distracted drivers testified in support of the bill, some saying it didn’t go far enough and asking for even stiffer penalties.
The fine for a first offense would be $50, and $250 for a second offense.
Col. Matt Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol also spoke in support of HF1180, saying the current law against texting while driving is almost impossible to enforce because troopers often can’t determine how drivers are using their phones.
“If this bill were to pass, and law enforcement saw someone driving down the road with their phone like this [holding phone to the ear], that would be a reason to stop that vehicle and take enforcement action in the form of a citation or a warning,” Langer said.
Uglem said distracted driving caused 86,000 crashes in Minnesota from 2011 to 2015.
Langer also told the story of a mother who was hit and killed while on a bicycle ride with her children, who were severely injured. The State Patrol made a video about that accident that he said “provides a stellar example” of the toll distracted driving takes.
“I think this [bill] would be a wonderful opportunity for Minnesotans to change their behaviors and make our roads safer,” Langer said.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has ordered the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton to use mediation to resolve a funding dispute. In an opinion issued Friday, the court also ruled that Dayton’s use of the line-item veto to strip biennial funding for the Legislature was constitutional.
A Ramsey County judge on Wednesday ruled that Gov. Mark Dayton’s line-item veto of legislative funding violated the state’s constitution.
House and Senate leadership OK a resolution to seek outside legal representation in an effort to restore funding for the Legislature that Gov. Mark Dayton line-item vetoed earlier this week.
Day three of the 2017 special session saw lawmakers pass final omnibus bills to be sent to Gov. Mark Dayton, with weary House members wrapping up their work at 2:42 a.m. Friday following a week of long days — and nights — at the State Capitol.
Lawmakers on conference committees must sort through competing bills before finalizing a product to send to the governor.
The budget process explained — and why it matters
$45 billion plan is about a 10 percent increase over current biennium
Governor urges lawmakers to pass a big capital investment bill during budget-setting year; House Speaker has expressed doubt over bonding this session
It was a day of selfies, swearings-in and standing ovations as the House opened the 2017-18 biennial session Tuesday.