Minnesotans could soon face broader restrictions on using their cellphones while driving.
Rep. Mark Uglem, R-Champlin, and Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, are co-authoring a bill that would make it illegal to use a cellphone while driving unless the phone is a hands-free device.
The two will announce the bill Tuesday morning at a news conference along with other legislators, safety experts and a family that was directly affected by a distracted driver, Hornstein said.
“Many of our constituents and others are increasingly concerned by so much distraction on the road,” Hornstein said. “This is a broadly held concern. People want to be safe while driving.”
If the bill passes, Minnesota would join 14 other states and Washington, D.C., that limit cellphone use in vehicles, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
One in four crashes
Distracted driving accounts for one in four crashes and results in at least 70 deaths and 350 serious injuries a year in Minnesota, according to the state Department of Public Safety.
School bus drivers and teens in their permit and provisional license stage already are banned from all cellphone use — talking or texting — while driving.
Hornstein, who wrote the state’s texting ban in 2008, has pushed for a ban on all cellphone use behind the wheel for years, which has been met with some resistance.
In 2011, Hornstein unsuccessfully sought to ban cellphone use by drivers after an appeal for a nationwide ban by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In a 2014 Star Tribune article, Hornstein said the “prospects of getting a cellphone ban are not great, although I think it’s the proper public safety policy and I would strongly support it.”
And with Uglem by his side, both lawmakers say that limiting cellphone use is a “bipartisan concern.”
Distracted driving affects everyone, Uglem said.
“We’re trying to save lives,” he added.
Under the bill to be proposed, penalties for drivers using a cellphone without a hands-free device would be $50 for the first offense and an additional $225 for the next offense.
If the bill becomes law, it could take effect as early as July.