As of August 1, 2019, the State of Minnesota joined 19 other states that require people operating a vehicle to have their cellphones in hands-free mode. Workplace safety is one of DAHL’s highest priorities both for our own staff members, as well as our consultants, but what about the route to and from your place of employment?
The Minnesota Department Employment and Economic Development (MNDEED) states that within the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the average commute time to/from work is 25.4 minutes. That length of idle time in your vehicle, plus the increased amount of technology at our fingertips can equal a multitude of opportunities to become distracted from our driving task.
According to the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, a division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, distracted driving contributes to an average of 45 deaths and 204 life-changing injuries each year, and texting citations climbed 30% from 2017 to 2018. These statistics make a compelling case for placing your mobile device out of reach while driving. Can I use my phone? The new law allows a driver to use their cell phone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and get directions, but only by voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone. Remember, hands-free is not necessarily distraction-free. Can I use a GPS navigation device? Under the new law GPS and other systems that can only be used for navigation are exempt from the hands-free law. In-car screens and systems are also exempt. In both cases, most of these systems lock when the vehicle is moving. Can I use a smart watch? Under the new law, drivers can use them as a conventional watch to check time, but smart watches are considered an electronic communications device under the hands-free law. That means the device has the same restrictions as a cell phone.
Don’t use your phone when you drive. Put your phone in the glove compartment or trunk or backseat or turn on a do-not-disturb app and enjoy the drive. It’s free, and you will be surprised at how many new sights you will see on your drive. A number of large, successful companies have adopted no-phone-use policies for their employees while driving on company time, and after getting used to it, employees report being happier and at least as productive as when they used their phones.
Use a single earphone that has the microphone, and you are hands-free. Remember, using earphones in both ears at the same time is illegal in Minnesota.
Pair your phone to your current car or truck. If your existing vehicle and phone can talk to each other, pair up and go hands-free.
Buy an auxiliary cable and connect your phone’s earphone jack to your car’s AUX jack. You can operate your phone by voice or single touch and listen through your car’s audio system. Auxiliary cables can be purchased for less than $5.
If your car is older and doesn’t have an AUX jack but has a cassette player, you can buy an adapter that fits into the cassette player and allows you to connect your phone through the earphone jack. The cassette adapters cost about $30.
Buy a holder to clip your phone to the dash. You can use it in a voice-activated or single-touch mode. Clips can be simple and cheap or complicated. Make sure you get one that holds your phone securely. Prices range from less than $5 to $50.
Buy a Bluetooth speaker or earphone to pair with your phone. There are many after-market choices for both, all of which let you go hands-free. Prices are generally in the $10 to $50 range.
Mobile device technology has certainly changed our lives for the better in many ways. However, it’s important to understand that these gadgets do take a large amount of our attention away from other (more important) tasks, like driving. From 2014-2018, more than 60,000 crashes involved distracted driving in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Being more mindful of how, when and where you divert your attention to a mobile device can truly impact your future. Workplace safety starts before you arrive…we wish you safe travels! Additional resources for drivers: