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Distracted Driving: Hands-Free Law Goes into Effect Aug. 1, 2019 in Minnesota


July 2019

New hands-free bill promises to make Minnesota roads safer

For decades, the rate of serious accidents on U.S. roadways fell. But over the last eight years, that trend has seen a discouraging reversal. And one of the main factors driving the increased risk of serious crashes is distracted driving.

Distracted driving is a serious problem in Minnesota

Nationwide, the National Safety Council reports that more than 1,000 people are injured and 9 people are killed each day in crashes attributable to drivers being distracted. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also reports over 3,000 people are killed each year in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

In Minnesota, the picture is little better. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has estimated that distracted driving as a result of cell phone usage is behind approximately 20 percent of all auto accidents that occur in the state. And these distracted-driving crashes lead annually to 45 deaths.

New hands-free law is expected to put a serious dent in distracted driving

On April 12, 2019, Minnesota governor Tim Walz signed a hands-free bill that will become law on August 1, 2019. The law will fine anyone found to be driving while operating a mobile device with their hands, but allows for the usage of mobile devices while driving so long as they are operated by voice commands.

The bill comes on the heels of a rapid increase in distracted-driving incidents throughout the state. Since 2013, the number of distracted-driving citations has increased by 173 percent. And given the known relationship between distracted-driving rates and serious accidents, such an increase poses a serious threat to all Minnesotans who use the state’s roadways.

Similar bills have been passed in other states, with promising results. The Minnesota version of the law will fine people $50 for a first offense, increasing sharply to $275 on subsequent offenses. The success of similar laws in other states has led some Minnesota lawmakers to predict that the bill will have an immediate and profound positive impact on the number of the state’s drivers who recklessly distract themselves with mobile devices while behind the wheel.

An underestimated threat

One of the most dangerous aspects of distracted driving is how benign it often seems to the drivers who engage in it. The vast majority of Minnesotans would never think about getting behind the wheel with a blood-alcohol content in excess of three times the legal limit. Yet, study after study has shown that the safety risks of distracted driving are frequently worse that driving in a super-drunk state.

People like Karin from Minnesota, who have experienced the life-altering consequences of distracted driving, share a stark reminder of just how serious engaging in this extremely risky behavior can be. Like tens of thousands of other grief-stricken Americans who have lost loved ones to distracted driving, Karin’s husband was taken from her by someone who was using their cell phone while operating their car.

Simply texting a message to a friend, loved one or coworker may seem as harmless as opening the fridge. But behind the wheel, these actions can be as deadly as pointing a loaded gun at another person and pulling the trigger.

Schwebel, Goetz and Sieben can help

Although it’s little consolation when a loved one’s life has been taken, Schwebel, Goetz and Sieben was able to help Karin reach a settlement that fairly reflected the extreme pain she endured as well as the gross negligence of the distracted driver.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a distracted-driving accident that has caused damage, injury or death, the first step that you should take is to call a skilled and experienced legal team like Schwebel, Goetz and Sieben. You need experienced lawyers who will help you navigate the confusing and stressful aftermath of a distracted-driving accident.

We stand up for our clients’ interests against giant insurers and their legal teams, who are often trying to get out of their liabilities with the smallest possible payments. When you need competent and experienced legal representation for your personal-injury case, call Schwebel, Goetz and Sieben at 612-377-7777 or toll free at 1-800-752-4265 for a free consultation.