It seems to me that I have seen more and more people holding their phones while driving. The Minnesota hands-free law went into effect a year ago and law enforcement agencies are conducting an extra enforcement period on distracted driving through August 8. Violations may include, but aren't limited to, phone use.

In a news release from the Owatonna Police Department, Sergeant Jason Petterson says, "Slipping back into old habits is easy. While going back to some old habits might make you gain weight or go into debt, slipping back into manipulating your phone while driving could cost you your life. Re-commit to driving distraction-free by going hands-free with your cell phone."

The release also states, "A year later, law enforcement reports seeing more and more drivers going back to their old ways." The law took effect August 1, 2019. Over the last year, over 19,000 motorists have been cited for violating the law.

Some drivers have told law enforcement officers that they are aware of the law, "but are having a hard time breaking the habit or have been slipping back into old habits. Other drivers stopped have phone holders in the vehicle but aren't using them, or they think law enforcement isn't conducting traffic stops during the pandemic."

The law allows for phone use via voice commands or one-touch activation. The first offense can cost you $100 or more. A second ticket can hit $300 or more.

During the "Drive Smart" campaign, officials offer these suggestions:

  • Put down your phone or turn it off.
  • Keep music in an easy to reach place. (Or leave it on AM 1390 KRFO.)
  • Set up your GPS in advance.
  • Avoid messy foods and secure drinks.
  • Teach children proper behavior.
  • Passengers should avoid doing anything to distract the driver and can, in fact, help with anything that might take the driver's attention away from the road.