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Talking on the phone while driving could be banned in Minnesota

A bill to limit cellphone use at the wheel to hands-free devices has taken the first step.

Minnesota could be heading towards a blanket ban on the use of cellphone devices while driving, with the exception of using them in "hands-free" mode.

A bill, HF50, sponsored by Rep. Frank Hornstein (D-Minneapolis), overcame its first obstacle when it was given the green light from a Minnesota House Transportation Panel on Tuesday.

If enacted, it would ban drivers from using cellphones to make a call while behind the wheel, to go along existing rules prohibiting texting, using apps and playing videos from your phone while driving.

Drivers will still be able to use their phones in hands-free mode, as well as voice-activated functions. There's also an exception for activating or deactivating a device in emergency situations.

Anyone caught making a call on their phone while driving would be liable for a fine of at least $225.

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Previous attempts to pass such a bill have not been successful, though the Session Daily notes that there appears to be support on both sides of the aisle this time around, with Gov. Tim Walz indicating he would sign a bill if it reaches his desk.

With around 20 percent of crashes on Minnesota's roads caused by distracted driving, which has been a factor in the deaths of an average 53 people each year recently, Hornstein told the committee hearing on Tuesday that his bill would "save lives."

A companion bill is being submitted through the Senate by Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson), which awaits its first hearing.

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