Sixteen states prohibit drivers from using a hand-held cell phone while driving, but a proposal in the Minnesota legislature to do the same seems to have fallen off the radar as the end of the session nears.
Under Minnesota law, school bus drivers and those under 18 with provisional licenses are banned from using their phones behind the wheel. There is a ban on text messaging for all drivers. Making a phone call is not banned.
Mankato State Representative Jack Considine said the ban had a lot of momentum initially and, “I don’t know what happened to it. There was a movement within the Republican Caucus where they started the same argument, ‘Oh, pretty soon they are going to come after our cell phones.’ Similar to the gun debate. I don’t know what to say about that.”
The Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety’s Toward Zero Deaths statistics show that one in five crashes in Minnesota are caused by distracted driving, and it claims the life of one person a week, kills an average of 59 Minnesotans each year, and causes 200 to 250 injuries annually in the state. “There seems to be a lot of indications that it would save lives,” Considine said, “And it’s gone.”
For two weeks in mid-April, the state’s Office of Traffic Safety coordinated a distracted driving campaign. Officers, deputies, and troopers ticketed more than 1,500 drivers across the state for texting while driving, over 550 more than in 2017.
Considine said, “I hope it will continue to gain momentum and come out of here as a law.”
During the distracted driving campaign, DPS shared some of the craziest distracted driving stops on Twitter. They included a man caught shopping online while driving in a snowstorm; a 71-year-old woman texting while driving; and a 52-year-old man playing Pokemon Go! behind the wheel.