Minnesota's Texting While Driving Law is Revised Again - 2023

Businessman using mobile phone. Minnesota's texting while driving law concept.

The Use of Wireless Devices statute – which governs the use of cell phones while driving – has undergone another revision. And it comes just four short years since its most recent revision, demonstrating the ongoing battle to tamper down the proliferation of cell phone usage while driving. So let’s take a look at the small changes to Minnesota’s texting while driving law.

As you know from our prior posts (presumably), a driver may only use a cell phone while driving if it is in voice-activated or hands-free mode. Evidently, the State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies wanted to make it even clearer that hands-free truly meant that the phone must be out of the driver’s hands in order to use it safely and legally while driving. Effective August 1, 2023, the texting while driving law will now read (new statutory language is underlined):

Except as provided in subdivision 3, when a motor vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic, the person operating the vehicle upon a street or highway is prohibited from: (1) holding a wireless communications device with one or both hands; or (2) using a wireless communications device to ….”

And then in subdivision 3: “The prohibitions in subdivision 2 do not apply if a person uses a wireless communications device: (1) solely in a voice-activated or hands-free mode to (i) initiate or participate in a cellular phone call, provided that the person does not hold the device with one or both hands….”

Do these changes add much? Frankly, no. Arguing that you weren’t violating the ‘hands-free’ law because you were utilizing the hands-free mode, but not holding it, wasn’t much of a winning argument, to say the least. Remember, a first-time offense is a petty misdemeanor traffic citation, meaning this argument is to a judge, not a jury. And, well, I think you can imagine how receptive the judge would be to such an argument.

What this minor change in the statute shows, to us at least, is that Minnesota’s texting while driving law will come under constant scrutiny and be the subject of more changes and updates on a regular basis. The battle against distracted driving is not going away. And if the statutory prohibitions don’t lead to improvements, the consequences will start becoming more real and serious – both criminally and collaterally.

Continue to check this website for more legal updates to Minnesota’s texting while driving law over the years.