Holiday drivers getting up-to-speed on Minnesota’s ‘slow poke’, hands-free laws

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BEAVER CREEK, M.N. (KELO) — This Labor Day weekend will be the first big road test for a couple of new laws in Minnesota. Drivers in that state can no longer hold their cell phones while they’re behind the wheel. Plus, so called “slow-pokes” in the passing lane have to move over for faster-moving cars.

The slowpoke and hands-free laws went into effect on August first. So troopers with the Minnesota State Patrol will be out this busy holiday weekend to make sure drivers are moving over and putting down their phones.

Stopping distracted driving is a priority for the MInnesota State Patrol this holiday weekend.

“We see way too many fatalities every day on our Minnesota roads and everywhere,” Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Kenny Willers said.

Sgt. Kenny Willers is surprised by how quickly drivers in Minnesota have adjusted to the state’s new hands-free only law.

“The days leading up to August first, people were still talking on their phones and all that stuff and then it really went down, once the law became intact,” Willers said.

Tom Mikrut of Brookings is using his cell phone while parked at a rest stop before he gets onto I-90 to visit family in Wisconsin. He thinks Minnesota’s new law is too restrictive.

“As far as for texting and driving, that’s absolutely a great law. But if you can’t even put your phone to your ear that sounds pretty terrible because, I mean, some of us don’t have Blue Tooth devices,” Mikrut said.

Sgt. Willers has so far, only issued two tickets for cell phone violations. He’s only issued warnings to slowpokes in the left lane.

“As long as you’re passing and not speeding, you can definitely get in the left lane, then as soon as you’re able to, get back in that right lane,” Willers said.

The grace period for drivers began this spring when Minnesota’s governor signed the two bills into law. That grace period ended this month when the laws officially went into effect. But troopers may cut some slack to out-of-state drivers who are unfamiliar with the laws.

“Maybe they’ll take that back to their home state and not have the phones in their hands,” Willers said.

When it comes to Minnesota’s new traffic laws, it’s not about writing more tickets, it’s about saving more lives.

“So we’re just hoping that’s one of the things that we can help reduce those fatalities,” Willers said.

Willers says the Minnesota DOT will soon install a sign along Interstate 90 at the South Dakota border to inform drivers about the state’s new hands-free law.

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