A number of new state laws take effect Aug. 1, including a notable change prohibiting the use of hand-held electronic devices such as cell phones when behind the wheel.
The new law requires drivers to use voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone in order to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and use navigation systems. The new law will mark a significant change in the way many individuals use a cell phone while driving.
While many people may take issue with certain components of this new law, it is our responsibility to come into compliance with it. Distracted driving presents a serious safety hazard and it is up to us to keep our focus on the task at hand when we get behind the wheel. Only time will tell whether this hands-free law will lead to safer roads and bring a reduction in traffic incidents, but we all need to do our part in taking steps to ensure our we are abiding by the new law as it takes effect.
While individuals will no longer be able to physically hold a cell phone while operating a vehicle, drivers also are prohibited from video calling, video live-streaming, Snapchat, gaming, looking at video or photos stored on the phone, using non-navigation apps, reading texts and scrolling or typing on the phone.
Exceptions are allowed for individuals to obtain emergency assistance if there is an immediate threat to life and safety, or when in an authorized emergency vehicle while performing official duties.
GPS direction systems may still be used, but destination programming must be performed ahead of time, before a driver enters the roadway.
You can visit the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s website if you have any questions on the new law.
Some other new laws as of Aug. 1 include:
Slower vehicles stay right – clarifies requirements on operating slow vehicles on the right side of the road and moving out of the left-most lane to allow others to pass. If the roadway has more than one lane in each direction, a person must move out of the leftmost lane to allow another vehicle to pass, when practicable under existing conditions. This will not apply when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway, preparing to exit a controlled-access highway on the left side of the road, the lane is designated and posted for a specific type of traffic, or the vehicle is an authorized emergency vehicle. Note: This new law also does not impact existing statute which says, when traveling on a road with two or more lanes, drivers must keep one full lane away from stopped emergency vehicles with flashing lights activated.
Disability plates and permits - licensed physical therapists will now be authorized to provide a required medical statement that an individual can use to obtain a disability parking permit or disability license plates.
Prohibiting retaliation in nursing homes – prevents a nursing home or assisted living facility from retaliating against a resident or employee if the resident, employee or person acting on the resident’s behalf files a good faith complaint or inquiry or reports a crime. Illegal retaliation could include any form of discrimination, restriction or prohibition of visitors, withholding of food or care, discharge or transfer, or unauthorized removal, tampering with or deprivation of technology, communication or electronic monitoring devices.