Minnesota Department of Public Safety released data on how the new hands-free law in Minnesota has performed since it went into effect on Aug. 1, 2019. As of Dec. 31, 2019, that is in five months, a total of 9,727 drivers received citations for violating the law. That amounts to little over 60 a day. It is disheartening to see 60 individuals every day in the state refusing to respect law of the land.

Please know that Minnesota does not allow drivers to hold a cellphone or any other electronic device while behind the wheel. Drivers may touch their phone once to make a call, send voice-activated text messages or listen to podcasts. But multiple touches, such as dialing a phone number or engaging GPS all are banned, including video streaming, gaming and using apps for anything other than navigation. Teenagers cannot use their phones, even hands-free, while driving.

The above violations occur either due to lack of knowledge about the law or due to a behavior that drivers just do not want to give up. Apparently, drivers are on the same learning curve as drunk or impaired drivers. If that is the case, we will have to wait a few years before distracted driving attains the status of drunk or impaired driving. Just like drunk driving, distracted driving is a behavior issue that must change.

The Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation (www.shreyadixit.org) has been working with teenagers who may serve as the guiding force against the distracted driving community. This particular age group has the potential to influence older experienced drivers who are most difficult to change, as well as elementary school-age kids who are years away from driving. The foundation’s Distraction-free Life Club at the Eden Prairie High School has instituted a peer-to-peer influence model to inculcate responsible driving behaviors of their colleagues. They are also busy developing a workshop to be delivered at tone of the elementary schools in Eden Prairie in April.

Parents, if you have a driver-age teen at home please ask her/him to join the club at the high school. You will be happy to see your child become a responsible, safe driver. If you need additional information please reach out to me at vijay@shreyadixit.org.

Please write to Vijay Dixit of the Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation at vijay@shreyadixit.org. His phone number is 612-759-3384.