Ask a Trooper: Talking about tire safety

Question: It seems like I am still seeing drivers holding their phone. Has law enforcement seen any progress with the hands free law?

Answer: This is a great topic. Here is some information that was shared on the Department of Public Safety’s blog: “Complacency is a dangerous thing, and old habits are hard to break. Often, once the novelty wears off a new idea or program, we go back to our old ways. Sometimes that’s not a big deal—at worst, you might gain some weight back or see some flowers wither in your garden. But sometimes falling back into old habits can be deadly.

Minnesota’s hands-free cell phone law just turned one year old on Aug. 1, and it’s safe to say the novelty has worn off and people may be getting complacent. Drivers may be slipping back into old habits, risking their own lives and those of their fellow motorists.

Granted, law enforcement officers throughout Minnesota have seen more drivers using hands-free options like mounts and holders for their phones. But they’ve also seen drivers who have these options but are holding their phones anyway. Some of those cited for breaking the hands-free law say they’re having a hard time breaking the habit, or they think law enforcement isn’t conducting traffic stops during the pandemic. But the fact remains that 40 people die every year on average because someone chose to drive distracted. And although the numbers of hands-free citations went down during the pandemic, they popped right back up again after the reopening: June 2020 saw 1,656 citations – five more than October’s 1,651 citations.

If you’re already on the hands-free bandwagon, thank you for being here. If you aren’t, we’d like to invite you along. Speak up and talk to your friends and family about using voice commands on your phone. Tell your neighbors and coworkers about the cell phone holder that clips to your dashboard so that you won’t be tempted to hold your phone. Mention to your parents or children (or both) that they can get answers to all their questions about the new hands-free law on And while you’re at it, tell everyone that the penalty for not being hands-free while driving can be more than $120 for a first offense (including the fine and court fees), which can climb to more than $300 after that (fine and court fees). 

Even though the law is only one year old, our work to ensure our roads are free from distracted drivers will keep going. If we all work together, we can ensure that no one has to get the devastating news that their loved one died because a driver was posting on Snapchat or live-streaming videos. It will take some long-term changes. You will have to break some old habits – for good. But it’ll be worth it.”

For more information go to:

SGT. NEIL DICKENSON is Minnesota State Patrol Public Information Officer for the state’s northeast region. Send questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues to or by mail to Minnesota State Patrol, 1131 Mesaba Ave., Duluth MN 55811. Follow Dickenson on Twitter at @MSPPIO_NE . 

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