"Ask The Chief" allows readers access to useful information about law enforcement issues in Red Wing. This communication tool has been developed to enhance community policing efforts by providing residents and visitors with the opportunity to ask questions about local laws, programs and the department in general.

Submit your question to askthe.policechief@ci.red-wing.mn.us.

Q: With the new hands-free law, is the only way for me to make a call while driving is to use the voice command? I drive an older car and it doesn't have the technology to pair with my phone.

A: The "hands-free" bill was signed into law on April 12, 2019, making Minnesota the 18th hands-free driving state. The "hands-free" law takes effect on Aug. 1, 2019.

To answer your question, effective Aug. 1 you MUST use voice commands or single-touch activation without holding your phone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and get directions. The only exception to this law, is in the event of an emergency situation, if there is an immediate threat to life and safety, or when in an authorized emergency vehicle while performing official duties.

I understand that older vehicles don't have the voice-activated technology, but you can purchase a Bluetooth speaker or an earphone that will pair with your phone or purchase a phone holder to clip your phone to the dash and use it in a voice-activated or single-touch mode. I suggest you visit your cellphone carrier and inquire about voice command options.

If your car is older and 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.

Remember, using earphones in both ears at the same time is illegal in Minnesota, you must have at least one ear open to hear potential warning horns or other driving concern commands/sounds.

The intent of this law is to reduce distracted driving making our roads safer, so at the end of the day, two hands on the wheel and 100% attention on the road. No text or phone call is worth your life.

There are numerous other things that can also distract you from driving, each vehicle operator must make a conscious effort to focus on the road. Smartphone technology, easily creates our number one concern for distracted driving, and this law is intended to help drivers return their focus to driving.

Drivers caught holding their phones will face a $50 fine, with repeat offenders looking at a $275 ticket minimum.

Additional Information:

1. Hands-Free: https://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/members/profile/news/10767/25100

2. The new law, Chapter 11, expands current state law (Minnesota Statutes, section 169.011, subdivision 94 and Minnesota Statutes, section 169.475) https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/169.011#stat.169.011.94

3. Hands-Free Fact Sheet: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/hands-free/Documents/hands-free-faq.PDF

4. Distracted Drivers: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ooc/news-releases/Pages/keep-hopes-dreams-l...