Minnesota bill would force drivers to hang up and drive

| 2/28/2007

All drivers in Minnesota would be banned from using cell phones while driving, if a state lawmaker gets his way.

Rep. Mike Jaros, DFL-Duluth, has offered a bill that would forbid drivers in the state from talking on cell phones - even phones with "hands-free" accessories - while behind the wheel.

The bill would make it a secondary offense to drive while chatting - meaning a person would have to be pulled over for another violation, such as speeding, before they could be ticketed for talking on the phone.

Emergency calls would be exempted.

Currently, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York have the only statewide laws restricting hand-held cell phone use in vehicles. In 2008, California is slated to implement its own rule. No state prohibits hands-free usage.

The Minnesota bill comes as more studies show that hands-free and hand-held phones are equally distracting. Opponents of cell phone restrictions also say that talking on cell phones is no more distracting than eating, drinking or changing radio stations while driving.

In fact, research by the University of North Carolina determined that cell-phone use ranked eighth in terms of distraction, The Patriot-News reported.

Jaros' bill - HF41 - is in the House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee.