On March 18th, 2019, the Minnesota House passed a bill requiring all drivers in the state to use hands-free devices while making phone calls. This legislation makes it illegal for Minnesota drivers to use handheld devices to make or receive calls, which is a measure that state legislators hope will reduce the distressingly high rate of distraction-related injuries and fatalities that occur every year on Minnesota roads.
With this measure, Minnesota has joined sixteen other states and Washington DC in prohibiting drivers from using handheld communications devices while driving. This bill was pushed forward with strong bipartisan support and passed by a margin of 106 to 21, and by making hands-free devices the only acceptable tools for making calls on Minnesota roads, lawmakers seek to address the fact that one in five crashes in Minnesota are currently caused by distracted driving.
As Minnesota lawmakers deliberated on this measure, reminders of the brutal toll taken by distracted driving were constantly near at hand. Bereaved Karen Ilg addressed the House while clutching a piece of the bicycle her husband was riding when he was struck by a distracted driver, and Vijay Dixit opened his heart to lawmakers as he recounted how he lost his son to distracted driving.
Advocates have been pushing this bill forward for three years, and clearing the House represents a monumental achievement for victims of distracted driving and the lawmakers who have been supporting their efforts. However, the measure must still pass a vote in the Minnesota Senate before it can be signed into law.
When you’re behind the wheel of a car, it’s necessary to bring all of your focus to bear on the matter at hand. After years of driving, this task might seem automatic, but if you don’t pay adequate attention, you could fail to notice on-the-road factors that can harm you or another person.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving killed 3,450 people in 2016. In 2015, 391,000 people were injured due to crashes that could have been avoided if a driver hadn’t been distracted.
Using a cell phone while you drive isn’t the only action that can cause distracted driving. For instance, eating, drinking, using your navigation system, or changing stereo settings also takes your attention off the road. In essence, any action that makes it hard for you to pay attention to the task of driving results in distracted driving, and it is incumbent upon drivers to eliminate as many distractions as possible to make driving safe for themselves and other people on the road.
While this recent piece of Minnesota legislation seeks to address one of the main causes of distracted driving, drivers in this state and across the country should observe the spirit of the law and do their best to avoid all types of distraction on the road. Being a responsible driver protects everyone on the road and reduces the number of distraction-related crashes that occur every year.
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mobilizes law enforcement officers nationwide to look out for drivers texting or using their phone behind the wheel. For information about how you can help raise awareness of distracted driving visit the National Safety Council for free materials, such as a Social Media Kit, Fact Sheet, Safety Checklist, and Pledge.
If you or someone you love has been harmed by distracted driving, you’ll need professional assistance if you want to seek justice. Here at Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben, we’re all too familiar with the devastating toll that distracted driving can take on individuals and families, and as you navigate the complicated framework surrounding distracted driving law, having qualified experts by your side can make all the difference. To get started with a free consultation, call our offices at 612-377-7777 or toll-free at 800-752-4265 today.