Editorial: Don’t slip back into old habits with cell phones

Published 9:06 pm Tuesday, August 4, 2020

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Law enforcement agencies across the state began a stepped-up enforcement campaign this week focused on hands-free cell phone use and distracted driving.

Distracted driving can be anything from texting to daydreaming, to reaching for items in the car, to changing music or responding to children in the backseat.

Minnesota’s hands-free law has been in effect for a year now, and law enforcement since then have cited 19,160 drivers for failing to comply with the law, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

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The agency states 57% of those citations have been for drivers ages 21 to 40 years old.

Authorities say early indications show that the hands-free law may be making a difference in distraction-related crashes. There were 19 traffic fatalities from Aug. 1, 2019, through July 1, 2020, that were believed to have been distraction-related.

There were 33 in the same time period from 2018 to 2019 and 30 in the same period from 2017 to 2018.

We remind motorists that the law prohibits drivers from holding their phone while driving. Phones can be placed anywhere in the vehicle as long as it’s not in the driver’s hand.

The law allows drivers to use their phone to make calls, text, listen to music or get directions — but only by voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone.

Hand-held use of a phone is allowed in case of an emergency.

While the number of citations show that Minnesotans still have a ways to go in implementing this law, we encourage people to continue to make this a priority.