Cities may need to think about updating their personnel policies and purchasing hands-free technology to comply with the new law.
(Published Jun 10, 2019)
Most Minnesota drivers will soon be prohibited from holding a cell phone while driving under a new law passed during the 2019 legislative session.
The new law, Chapter 11, expands current state law (Minnesota Statutes, section 169.011, subdivision 94 and Minnesota Statutes, section 169.475) to ban using a “wireless communications device” to text, call, or access content while operating a motor vehicle on a street or highway. Drivers may, however, use voice activation or hands-free mode to call, text message, or access an application. The law will go into effect on Aug. 1, 2019.
The fine for the first violation of this law is $50 plus court fees, and the fine for second or subsequent violations is $275 plus court fees.
While no city is required to update its personnel policy to reflect this change, the League advises cities to make sure it is clear to employees that the city expects them to comply with this law. They should also make sure employees understand what will happen if they violate the law, whether the employee will be responsible to pay the fine, and whether he or she is subject to discipline by the city.
Cities may need to think about updating their personnel policies and purchasing hands-free technology. To that end, the League updated pages 47-48 of its model personnel policy to reflect expectations a city may have for its employees relating to the state law change. Because this is a general model document, cities are encouraged to work with their city attorney to determine what changes are appropriate for their specific city policy documents.
A person cannot initiate, compose, send, retrieve, or read an electronic message. An electronic message includes but is not limited to an email, text message, instant message, accessing a web page, a voicemail, a transmitted image, transmitted video content (including video calling), gaming, and other data transmitted using electronic communications.
Drivers cannot use a device at any time to make a cellular phone call, including initiating a call, talking, listening, or participating in video calling.
Lastly, a person may not access video or audio content, images, games, or software applications stored on the device.
Several devices are exempted from the definition of a “wireless communications device” and can be accessed while a vehicle is in motion. These include:
The law also does not prohibit a person from:
Cities will also want to be mindful of an existing 2012 Federal Motor Carrier hands-free law that restricts the use of all hand-held mobile devices for drivers of commercial motor vehicles.