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Local, state officials prepare for hands-free bill to take effect

The new law will ban most cell phone use while driving starting Aug. 1.

With Minnesota’s hands-free driving law going into effect next month, state authorities say they are ramping up education efforts. Local police departments have also joined in promoting awareness.

Passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Tim Walz in April, the law will make it illegal to use a cellphone while in motion or in traffic starting Aug. 1. The law lays out an exception for hands-free, voice-activated devices.

Mike Hanson, director for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety, said at a June press conference that the department’s education efforts will pick up in mid-July as it prepares for the new law to take effect.

“We don’t want anybody to be surprised,” he said. “We want everybody to be informed so you can make good, safe driving decisions.”

To help drivers comply with the law, the Hopkins Police Department is giving away free hands-free cell phone clips, KSTP reported. The program will provide drivers more than 1,000 clips, which comply with the hands-free law.

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These efforts come as citations for distracted driving are on the rise, according to the DPS. The department reports citations went up from 2,177 in 2012 to 9,545 in 2018.

Distracted driving crashes also contributed to one in every five crashes in the state from 2014 to 2018.

In April, tweets from the Minnesota State Patrol highlighted notable incidents of distracted driving. These included drivings shopping online, streaming videos and using Snapchat. 

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