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October 17, 2019

9/26/2019 3:55:00 PM
State, local patrols; mixed reports on hands free law

Agencies that enforce our laws on the road are reporting fairly good compliance with the hands-free law that went into effect August 1.  

State Patrol Lieutenant Gordon Shank says anecdotal evidence points to people successfully getting the word about the law. The state patrol has ticketed very  few in Chisago County.  Most confess to simply being unable to break the habit of using a cellphone while they operate a vehicle.  State Patrol data show two hands-free violation citations issued to drivers on Chisago County sate highways for August.

Lt. Shank added, “We don’t have any last year’s count (statistics) to compare to because it is only a few weeks old,” but it could be safe to assume the number of people wanting to hold their phones will decrease.  Before the Hands-Free Law, the opposite was happening. In Minnesota there were 9,545 texting tickets in the state in 2018, this was 7,357 for 2017.

The sheriff’s deputies are seeing a little more citation activity according to Sheriff Brandon Thyen.  He tells the press there have been “several dozen” tickets issued on county roads since the law went into effect.

The clarity of the new law has helped.  “It has made enforcement efforts much more straightforward compared to the old law, “ Sheriff Thyen said.

Deputies went straight to issuing tickets and skipped the warnings phase. The public education effort prior to the effective date of August 1 was intensive and should have adequately gotten the word out about the new law, said the sheriff.

State Patrol troopers say the most often heard excuse when a phone is in someone’s hand is that they are using  GPS.  State Patrol says check your Global Positioning System when you are not moving on-the-road.

Happily, Lt. Shank continued, patrol personnel are observing “drivers actually driving” They aren’t looking down, fumbling for a dropped phone, or driving erratically because they’re distracted.  It is “a change for the better,” he concluded.

On the streets where Lakes Area Police enforce the hands-free law, Chief of Police Bill Schlumbohm said six tickets were written from August 1 to Tuesday last week.  
“So (officers) are still seeing cellphones being held, but hopefully people are starting to get the message.”

The enforcement program dubbed Toward Zero Deaths gives agencies grant-funded overtime saturation hours.  TZD statistics show that the highest arrest percentages resulting from texting while driving in 2018 occurred in seven county-metropolitan counties.  Shank said these areas remain the highest for hands-free ticketing numbers too.  He is not sure how to explain that city highway drivers tend to want to text and drive, but Hennepin County tallied the highest number of hands-free offenders cited by patrol since August 1.

In Chisago County the Towards Zero Death data reveal the major offenses continue to be  seatbelt and speeding-- a full 50 percent of all tickets in 2018.

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P.O. Box 748 Lindstrom, MN 55045

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