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Citations aplenty on first day of hands-free law in Minnesota

One guy was caught texting about the hands-free law.
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Today marked the dawn of a new era in Minnesota, as the state's new hands-free law for drivers came into effect.

Law enforcement were out in numbers on state roads to issue citations and reminders that you can no longer hold your phone while behind the wheel, and can't use it unless it's via a hands-free/voice-activated device.

And there were some pretty blatant infractions caught by the cops, including a driver in Eagan who was spotted "texting about the 'hands free law'" before putting the phone to her ear to make a call.

"Thanks for spreading the word but COME ON!" Eagan PD said.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says there has been a significant increase in distracted driving crashes in recent years, coinciding with the rise in smartphone use.

In 2013, state police issued just over 2,100 citations for texting while driving, a number that had climbed to 9,545 last year.

If you're caught with a phone behind the wheel, you'll receive a $120 fine. After that, the penalty increases to $300 plus court costs.

What to know about the new law

The DPS has issued this list of do's and don'ts when it comes to the new law.

– You can’t hold your phone while driving.

– You can place your phone anywhere in the vehicle as long as you are not holding it with your hand. If mounted on the windshield, it must be in the lower part of the windshield, not obstructing your view.

– The new law allows a driver to use their 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.

– Drivers may not use their phone at any time for video calling, video live-streaming, Snapchat, gaming, looking at video or photos stored on the phone, using non-navigation apps, reading texts and scrolling or typing on the phone.

–GPS devices and other systems that can only be used for navigation are exempt from the hands-free law. In-car screens and systems are also exempt. In both cases, most of these systems lock when the vehicle is moving.

–Hand-held phone use is allowed to obtain emergency assistance, if there is an immediate threat to life and safety, or when in an authorized emergency vehicle while performing official duties.

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