ST. PAUL, MN – The House Transportation Policy & Finance Committee today held a public hearing about the ‘hands-free’ cell phone bill, HF 50, which aims to increase safety for drivers, passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians on Minnesota’s roads by requiring drivers to use their cell phones in a hands-free mode. Safety experts, advocates and family members of loved ones who were killed in distracted driving crashes provided public testimony about the proposal, which has strong bipartisan support. The bill passed out of committee.
Greg LaVallee, a distracted driving speaker for Just Drive, Inc. spoke at the committee on Tuesday. His son, Phil, was killed by a distracted driver while he was out for a run.
“The complacent attitude of our society towards cell phone use while driving is claiming 9 lives per day in the U.S.”, said Mr. LaVallee. “This is outrageous! Hands-Free legislation will help enforce the current texting ban and it is a step in the right direction to prevent crashes and save lives.”
Paul Aasen of the Minnesota Safety Council also shared encouraging statistics from other states who have enacted similar legislation.
“12 of 15 states that are hands free have seen an average decrease in fatalities of 16%,” said Mr. Aasen. “Georgia, the most recent adopter, has seen a 7% decrease in half a year. Hands free will not end all distracted driving but it is a good step forward.”
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.
Rep. Hornstein is hopeful the bipartisan bill will move quickly in both House and Senate chambers to Governor Walz’s desk for a prompt signature.
"The broad and deep support for HF 50 reflects the urgency Minnesotans feel regarding safe roads,” said Chair Hornstein. “We know that this bill will save lives."
The bill’s next stop is the Ways and Means Committee. The Senate companion bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Transportation Committee on January 23 at 10:30 a.m.