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Minnesota Senate passes hands-free cellphone requirement for drivers

This comes a week after the House passed its own bill.

Minnesota is on the road to becoming the 18th state in the U.S. to require hands-free use of cellphones while making a call.

The state Senate passed its version of a hands-free bill Monday by a 56-10 vote, one week after the House OK'd its version 106-21. Meaning after years of effort, the Minnesota Legislature appears poised to make this law.

“Cell phone abuse on the roadways is a growing problem. This isn’t about restricting liberties; it’s a matter of public safety. The purpose of this bill is to encourage drivers to use their phones in a hands-free manner – or put it down,” said Sen. Scott Newman in a statement Monday.

“Drivers have a responsibility to themselves, their passengers, and the others on the road. We need to reinforce just how dangerous cell phone use while driving can be, and that’s what this bill is intended to do.”

It's not quite a done deal however.

Both bills do prohibit drivers from making a call outside of hands-free mode, but some of the details need to be ironed out.

For example, the Senate bill allows drivers to use their phones as normal for navigation - whereas the House bill requires hands-free actions for directions

And the Senate bill specifically allows drivers to hold the phone in a hijab or other item of clothing in order to be hands-free, while the House bill doesn't specifically address it.

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The exact details will be sorted out in conference committee. If they agree to a final version and the House and Senate pass identical bills, it will go to Gov. Tim Walz for his signature.

At that point, Session Daily says Minnesota would be the 18th state in the U.S. (plus Washington D.C.) to require hands-free device usage from drivers.

Of course, texting and using the internet while driving is already against the law in Minnesota. Yet texting behind the wheel remains a huge concern for officials, with law enforcement handing out more than 9,500 tickets for the offense last year. And in 2018, there were 27 distraction-related fatal crashes, up from 25 the year before.

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