Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Capital IconMinnesota Legislature

Hands-free cell phone use

Published (2/22/2008)
By Mike Cook
Share on: 

A plan would help ensure that drivers keep two hands on the wheel.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Jaros (DFL-Duluth), HF1822 would require that any cellular phone used while operating a motor vehicle be hands-free. Use is defined in the bill as “talking, text messaging or listening on a mobile telephone.”

The House Transportation and Transit Policy Subcommittee sent the bill without recommendation Feb. 20 to the House Transportation Finance Division. There is no Senate companion.

Supporters said the bill is all about safety.

Citing a medical journal, Jaros noted a report stating cell phone abuse while driving causes as many incidents as drunken driving.

“Convenience must come second to public safety,” said Kenneth Zapp, an economics professor at Metropolitan State University, whose stepson was broadsided in 2000 by someone who ran a red light while talking on a cell phone.

“When we fly in an airplane, we all accept the fact we go through screening for public safety,” he said. “It’s inconvenient, but we need to do it. It’s equally serious here.”

Jaros hopes this bill becomes law quicker than another safety measure, but will have the same result.

“I remember about 20 years when we passed the seat belt law it took about six or eight years to do so,” he said. “I didn’t think it’d be as effective as it is.” Minnesota usually ranks at or near the top in nationwide seat belt usage, including 83.3 percent in 2006.

However, like a seat belt offense, this would be a secondary offense, meaning the driver would need to be stopped for another moving violation.

A person would not be guilty of crime if the phone was used for contacting certain places in response to an emergency, such as calling 911, a doctor, ambulance, fire department or other law enforcement agency.

Rep. Ron Erhardt (R-Edina) said the bill isn’t clear if dialing a cell phone would be a violation. Jaros will try to clarify that by the bill’s next stop.

Session Weekly More...

Session Weekly Home

Related Stories

At Issue: Offering a way out
Omnibus public safety policy bill aims to help future workers
(view full story) Published 5/9/2008

Minnesota Index
Figures and statistics on crime and punishment in Minnesota
(view full story) Published 3/28/2008

At Issue: Preparing for the worst
Emergency responders push for new training centers
(view full story) Published 3/14/2008