Hands-free phone law to be enforced starting Thursday

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By Reed Anfinson
Swift County Monitor-News

It is going to be an educational process that could be financially painful for those not willing to comply with the new Minnesota hands-free phone law that takes effect Thursday.

 “Under the new hands-free law, basically the way we enforce it is if the phone is in your hand, that is a violation of the new law,” Benson Chief of Police Ian Hodge said Monday.

The new law allows a driver to use a cell phone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and get directions, but only by voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone. Single touch means a swipe or a touch, not scrolling, or dialing or other multi-touch activities.

“A lot of times when a new law comes out people will say they didn’t know about it,” Swift County Sheriff John Holtz said. Others will say they thought there was a grace period between when the new law goes into effect and the fines start being issued. There have been a lot of stories about the hands-free law and people should be well aware of it by now, he said.

For those who ignore the new law, or persist in using their phones in ways that violate the new law, the fines will be stiff.

The first ticket is $50, plus court fees. Those court fees could bring the eventual fine closer to $100 to $130. Subsequent tickets for phone use could raise the fine to $275 with court fees pushing it well over $300.

“The long and short of it is that a person can’t hold the phone it their hand to make calls, look at videos, or games…” and they can’t be taking videos or photos with their phone while driving.

The only time it will be legal to hold a phone while driving is in an emergency situation and they are calling 911, Hodge said.

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