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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL)

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House and Senate Transportation Committee Chairs Introduce Bipartisan ‘Hands-Free’ Cell Phone Legislation

Monday, January 14, 2019

St. Paul, MN - Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) and Rep. Frank Hornstein (D-Minneapolis), chairmen of the Senate and House transportation committees, introduced bipartisan ‘hands-free’ cell phone legislation aimed to increase safety for drivers, passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians on Minnesota’s roads. The bills (S.F. 91 and H.F. number to be announced) would prohibit cell phone usage outside of one-touch communications, similar to laws already on the books in sixteen states and Washington D.C.

“The ‘hands-free’ bill isn’t about restricting liberties; it’s about public safety. We’re sending a message to drivers across Minnesota: get off your phone and focus on the road. Life depends on it,” said Senator Scott Newman. “When you operate a vehicle, you have a responsibility to yourself, your passengers, and the others on the road. This bipartisan measure will help reinforce just how dangerous distracted driving is.”

“Distracted driving fatalities are continually on the rise,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein. “Minnesotans deserve to be safe on our roadways. Requiring ‘Hands-free’ mode will deliver common sense safety measures to combat these preventable tragedies.”

The proposed legislation would require drivers to use their cell phones in a hands-free mode. Voice activated calls or other actions and functions that only need one touch activation, including navigation or playing music, would be allowed. A driver would not be required to use their phone or other device hands free if they are safely parked out of traffic or for emergencies.

Current law already bans emailing, texting, and using a web browser while driving. The ‘hands-free’ proposal would enact the same enforcement and penalties for using a cell phone outside of hands-free mode.