Distracted Driving Laws in Minnesota
Distracted driving laws in Minnesota were first introduced in 2008. Every year, one in every four car crashes is a result of driving distractions, such as cell phone use or various other activities that are not related to the operation of a motor vehicle. These actions result in an average of 70 fatalities and 350 serious injuries on a yearly basis.
As such, MN has passed texting and driving laws in order to discourage motorists from indulging in behaviors that may cause them to drive distractedly. The aim of these regulations is to reduce the number of accidents caused by such actions. Laws may vary somewhat from state to state and they may carry different penalties for violating them as well. To learn more about Minnesota’s laws on distracted driving continue reading the article below.
What is distracted driving in Minnesota?
Distracted driving environments arise when a motorist places his or her focus on something unrelated to the immediate task of operating a motor vehicle. Currently, distractions such as texting and driving are rapidly growing and causing an increase in auto accidents in the United States. Furthermore, the frequency of such occurrences continues to rise. Different driving distractions are classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) into categories which include the following:
- Manual – The manual class of distractions includes actions that result in actively taking your hands off the steering wheel of a car. Thus, this category encompasses eating, smoking or grooming activities such as brushing your hair or applying makeup.
- Visual – A visual distraction is any action that averts your eyes away from focusing on what is taking place on the road. This includes texting and driving, using the radio or looking for something in your car.
- Cognitive – Driving while distracted includes taking your attention away from operating a vehicle, such as talking with passengers in your car or with other individuals over the phone.
Certain kinds of distracted activities are more common than others. Some of the most recurring distractions for motorists include:
- Grooming activities, such as shaving or applying makeup
- Using a phone and/or sending text messages
- Eating and/or drinking
- Listening to loud music
- Using any navigation devices
- Watching videos of any kind
- Talking to passengers in a vehicle
- Operating a radio, CD player or MP3 player
- Reading any source material
Distracted Driving Laws in Minnesota for Handheld Devices
Cell phone use while driving poses a significant risk for motorists of all ages and skill levels. For drivers who are younger than 18 years of age, it is strictly illegal to use a mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle. However, this does not apply to situations where a phone is used to call 911 during an emergency. Distracted driving laws also do not apply to devices that are affixed to the vehicle permanently, such as GPS or other navigational components.
On the other hand, MN laws on distracted driving do not apply to vehicles that are safely parked or completely off the road. In those cases, it is safe to keep the engine running while using your handheld device.
Minnesota Laws on Distracted Driving for Novice Drivers
Distracted driving laws in Minnesota prohibit all novice drivers who are younger than 18 years of age and carry a learner’s permit from using a cell phone while driving, regardless of whether the device is handheld or hands-free. It is also important to note that this is a primary law, meaning that a law enforcement officer does not need another reason to pull over a motorist.
Texting and Driving Laws in Minnesota
Texting while driving is banned for all Minnesota drivers. Thus, it is illegal for any driver, regardless of age or experience level, to engage in any activity where communications of any kind are being exchanged through electronic devices. These include social media posts, emails and text messages. Only electronic devices that are integrated into the car may be used in accordance with state laws. As such, this is a primary law, which means that law enforcement officers do not need to have any other reason to pull you over before issuing you a traffic ticket for texting. Exceptions to the distracted driving law include:
- Reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency or serious road hazard
- Calling for help if you believe that you are in imminent danger
- Reporting a crime that involves another person
- Using a navigation system that is integrated into the vehicle
Minnesota Distracted Drivers Regulations for CDL Holders
Distracted driving laws in Minnesota prohibit motorists who hold commercial driver’s licenses from using cell phones or any other electronic devices while driving, regardless of whether they are handheld or hands-free. In MN, this is considered a primary law. As stated in previous sections, primary traffic laws provide enough motive for a law enforcement officer to pull over a driver.
Distracted Driving Penalties in Minnesota
Distracted driving fines in Minnesota cost drivers an average of $225, as well as the additional court costs for a first offense. In the case of subsequent offenses, motorists can expect even higher fees. Furthermore, state courts may impose additional costs on top of the fines issued by law enforcement agencies.
Ways to Prevent Distracting Driving in Minnesota
There are many ways to prevent texting and driving behavior, all of which significantly reduce the number of distracted driving accidents that cause property damage, injuries and fatalities. For example, some of the most common strategies to reduce texting and driving accidents include:
- Pulling over and resting when you find yourself feeling fatigue while driving. Motorists who operate a car when tired are four times more likely to get into an accident.
- Cutting down on the number of passengers who accompany you in a car is another method for limiting your exposure to driving distractions. Having too many individuals inside your car can greatly increase your level of distraction. This is particularly true for motorists who are younger than 18 years of age and have limited driving experience.
- Eating while driving is another major distraction. Spilling your food or drink in the car can cause a significant distraction away from the road.
- A major contributor to distracted driving is multi-tasking. By not attempting to do things such as talking on the phone, constantly messing with your media player or eating while you are driving can greatly reduce your distractions. Thus, avoiding these activities can give you a better chance of remaining safe.