Thirty-nine states, including Minnesota, currently have laws on the books that make texting while driving illegal. Five more states prohibit their use by novice drivers. But some, including the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), don’t think these texting laws go far enough. In an effort to decrease the number of distracted driving fatalities on our roads and highways, some want to ban cell phone use nationwide. So how would this affect Minnesota drivers?
Minnesota Fatalities Point to Distracted Driving
According to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) in its preliminary fatality report of Jan. 3, 2012, at least 378 people died on Minnesota roadways in 2012, with distracted driving listed as the “primary contributing factor.”
In fact, the DPS estimates that distracted driving is a factor in one in four car accidents in Minnesota, resulting in approximately 70 deaths and 350 serious injuries a year.
Current Minnesota Distracted Driving Cell and Texting Laws
Texting and Internet usage is illegal for all drivers.
Minors (all drivers under the age of 18) with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses are banned from using cell phones.
School bus drivers are prohibited from using cell phones while the vehicle is in motion.
New Bills to Combat Cell Phone Distraction
Though no new legislation in regards to cell phone use or distracted driving has found success in the last three years, advocates for its implementation are hopeful to repeat the success of the Minnesota ban on texting that officially became law in 2008.
The following broad bills seeking passage in the 2013-2014 session are designed to punish those who cause deaths or serious injury while driving and texting or using cell phones. Aggressive, careless and reckless drivers are also noted, with fines of upwards of $20,000 and 10 years in prison.
Senate Bill 206 sets out to punish inattentive drivers operating vehicles that result in death or serious injury. If caught, fines of up to $3,000, suspension of license and a possible one-year imprisonment could apply. Second offenders see fines rise upwards of $20,000 and incur a possible 10-year imprisonment.
House Bill 277 is a companion to SB206 and seeks separate penalties for aggressive, inattentive, reckless, or careless driving or street racing that results in death or serious injury. Texting and holding a cell phone is defined as inattentive or distracted driving.
If you’re a Minnesotan concerned about distracted driving on our roadways or just want to know more about preventing distracted driving, visit Minnesota Towards Zero Deaths for education, links to legislation, videos and other resources.