The State of Minnesota has recently passed a law banning any and all devices which require the use of hands while driving, including cell phones. Devices controlled using voice commands are still allowed, but this is a notable change from the old policy, which allowed hands to be used for calling on a cell phone. For many of us, this will present no real change to our driving habits and tendencies, but for others, this change in law may be a wake up call. If you’re among those who will have to change the way the act behind the wheel, there are several reasons to take things seriously.
The punishment for breaking the hands-free law while driving can be severe, especially for new drivers like high schoolers. Driving is a privilege, not a right, and you’re license could be revoked or suspended should you be caught using a device. Similar to the seatbelt law, the hands-free law is a primary offense, meaning a police officer doesn’t have to have another motive for pulling you over, like erratic driving. If they see you on your phone, they can pull you over, no questions asked.
These laws don’t exist for nothing, either. When you get down to it, operating a device while driving is inherently dangerous. To simply claim that skill in multi-tasking is enough to justify using a device is to not give the power of driving enough credit. This isn’t like using your phone while Go-Karting. Cars are immensely powerful machines, and one lapse in focus or attention can have devastating consequences for you, your passengers, and other people on the road. Driving already has enough distractions, we don’t need to add looking down at your phone into the mix.
The habits you develop as a young driver will be habits you maintain for the rest of your life, so think about how you want to be driving with your family in the car. You’ll want to be laser focused to keep yourself and them safe, so start doing that now. And as a passenger, do what you can to stop the driver from operating their device. Offer to find directions, send a text, or change the song, so that the driver can focus on what drivers should be focused on: driving.