MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Later this summer, millions of Minnesotans will have to change their driving habits. On Friday, Gov. Tim Walz signed a "hands-free" bill into law.
Families who lost loved ones due to a distracted driver have been pushing the law for years.
"In a depth of pain that I cannot imagine to turn that into a positive is something so admirable," Gov. Walz said while surrounded by impacted families.
Here's what the new law means for drivers: We've all seen it – someone texting while driving or watching a video. That was already against the law. Now drivers need to put their phone down completely while behind the wheel.
"You cannot have a phone in your hand at any time," said Mike Hanson, director for Office of Traffic Safety with DPS.
Hands-free means hands-free. You can't hold your phone and talk or hold your phone will driving. There is one exception: If there's an emergency. A driver can make a call, text, listen to music, but it must be done through a voice command or a single touch. You can answer a call on Bluetooth or use a single touch to accept a call.
"If what you're trying to do can be accomplished with either that single touch or by voice activation then that's allowed anything else is not," Hanson said.
No unlocking a phone, scrolling for a number and then hitting call. It will all be against the law. The state suggests people start changing their regular routine now.
"Put the phone down, keep your eyes up on the road and engage your mind with the driving task as soon as you jump into that driver's seat," Hanson said.
The penalty for violating the law is a gross misdemeanor, which carries a $50 fine for the first violation and a $275 fine for subsequent violations.
The law goes into effect Aug. 1. A violation will result in a $50 fine. Click here for a hands-free fact sheet.
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