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Ask the Chief: Driving a tractor? No handheld cell for you either

Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman

"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: Does the cellphone law apply to farmers when driving tractors on the road?

A: Good question, as you may be aware; Gov. Tim Walz signed the "hands-free cell phone" bill into law on April 12, 2019. Effective Aug, 1, 2019, it will be illegal to hold your phone while operating a motor vehicle in the state of Minnesota.

An implement of husbandry (vehicle that does not exceed 30 mph and is adapted for agricultural use, tractors) meets the definition of a motor vehicle, and the new hands free law applies to ALL motor vehicles being operated on a roadway (highway, street).

Therefore, when operating a tractor on the road way, you may not hold a cellphone and may only use it in a "hands-free" mode. The only exemption to this new law is for an emergency involving an immediate threat to life and safety or while operating an authorized emergency vehicle while performing official duties.

Prepare now for going hands-free on Aug. 1, Minnesota Department of Public Safety — How to go Hands-Free (from cheapest to most expensive ... )

• Don't use your phone when you drive. Put your phone in the glove compartment or trunk or backseat or turn on a "don't 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 while driving on company time and after getting used to it, they 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 that 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-$50.

For more information, feel free to down load the "Hands-Free Fact Sheet" at https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/hands-free/Documents/hands-free-faq.PDF

Resources

1. Office of Traffic Safety — Hands-Free Law, located online at: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/hands-free/Pages/default.aspx

2. Minnesota Sessions Law — Chapter 11, HF 50 Hands free law, located online at: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/2019/0/Session+Law/Chapter/11

3. Minnesota Statutes 169.011, Definitions (Farm Tractor, Implements of Husbandry), located online at: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/2018/cite/169.011