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Remember, drivers, 'slowpoke' and cellphone laws go live this week

Laws will limit cellphone use while driving and crack down on left lane "slowpokes."

This Thursday will mark a new era in driving in Minnesota, as two major new laws come into effect on Aug. 1.

Here's what you need to know about the "slowpoke" and hands-free laws.

Left lane “slowpoke” law

Sen. Jon Jasinski’s (R-Faribault) bill imposes a fine on drivers clogging up the left lane of traffic.

Under the law, which Jasinski announced was signed into law in May, drivers traveling below the speed limit in the left lane could receive a $125 fine.

The law is intended to prevent traffic hold-ups in the left lane. The fine is only imposed if the driver in moving slowly in the left lane does not allow others to pass. But the law does not allow for speeding in the left lane.

Per WCCO, Jasinski said he frequently encounters slow left lane drivers traveling from Faribault to the metro.

Hands-free law

The Legislature passed Minnesota’s hands-free driving law in April with bipartisan support, with Gov. Tim Walz signing on shortly after.

Under the law, drivers can only use cell phones for single-touch or voice operation. That means drivers cannot hold a phone in their hands for any reason, including calls, texts and video streaming .

“Hand up and drive. Your life, and the life of your fellow travelers depend on it,” author Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) said on the House floor in March.

Navigation systems are exempt from this law, but the Minnesota Department of Public Safety notes these systems typically lock when the car is in motion. Emergency calls are also an exemption.

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Hands-free devices can include Bluetooth devices and speakers, phone clips and AUX cables. Tends under 18 years of age cannot make or receive calls, whether hands-free or not.

Despite some disagreement between lawmakers, the eventual bill does allow individuals to use a phone tucked in a hijab or headscarf.

According to the DPS, citations for distracted driving has gone up from 2,177 in 2012 to 9,545 in 2018. These incidents also accounted for one in five crashed in the state from 2014 to 2018. 

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