Texting while driving has been against the law in Minnesota for years, but you could still legally pick up your phone to answer a call while behind the wheel.
Those days are numbered. The state’s hands-free cellphone driving requirement kicks in Aug. 1, meaning holding your phone while operating a motor vehicle is punishable by a $50 ticket on the first offense and $275 for tickets thereafter.
There’s no need to panic. The new law still allows you to grab your phone to make emergency calls. And in general, talking on your phone isn’t prohibited, it just has to be done without using your hands. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to comply with these new rules, no matter how old your vehicle is.
1) Car sync
If you have a newer vehicle, chances are it already has Bluetooth technology installed that connects with your phone. Check your owner’s manual or YouTube tutorials to figure out how to set it up.
After that, many cars will automatically sync with a phone as soon as they’re in range. Under the new law, you’re allowed to use one-touch capabilities to answer the call and continue it through your car’s audio system, hands-free.
You can also buy earphones that connect your phone with Bluetooth. There are a number of different styles, but the most common version sits over your ear and can take a call with the push of a button. A microphone is already built in. There are also other earphones with microphones on the market that plug directly into your phone and allow you to take calls hands-free.
One thing to remember: Minnesota law bars drivers from having earphones in both ears at the same time. If you go the earphone route, just make sure one ear is free and clear at all times to hear emergency vehicles and other cars on the road.
3) Cables and adapters
If your car is older and you don’t like the idea of using earphones, pick up an auxiliary cable for $5 at most stores. They run from your phone’s earphone jack to your car’s aux jack, allowing you to operate your phone by voice or single touch and listen through the speakers in your vehicle.
If your car has a cassette player, you can buy an adapter that connects your car to your phone through the earphone jack.
4) Dashboard mounts
While one-touch activation is allowed on your phone, you’re not allowed to scroll or hold your phone in your hand while you’re following directions on a navigation system.
An easy solution is a dashboard mount that holds the phone at eye level. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors and can be found in most gas stations and stores for as little as $5.
Some law enforcement agencies are even giving them away for free. Just mount your phone and plug in your destination before you start your vehicle, and voila! Hands-free navigation. A mount can also be used to hold your phone while you have a conversation using the speaker function.
5) Don’t use your phone when you drive
The simplest way to comply with Minnesota’s hands-free cellphone driving requirement is to just ignore your phone. Most day-to-day calls can wait a few minutes.
If you think you’re incapable of ignoring your phone, try putting it in the do-not disturb-while-driving setting. iPhones can be set to automatically go into this mode when the device detects you might be driving or when it’s connected to a vehicle’s Bluetooth system.
You can also toss it in the trunk or the backseat and take in the ride, phone-free. That’s the way older people used to do it in bygone days, and you may just find you enjoy it.