Minnesota Text Messaging and Cell Phone Laws

Read about Minnesota’s distracted driving laws and the penalties for a violation.

In Minnesota, all motorists are prohibited from texting while driving. This prohibition includes accessing the Internet or other data on wireless devices. Talking on a cellphone is generally allowed, except if the motorist is less than 18 years old or a school bus driver.

According to Minnesota's Office of Traffic Safety, distracted or inattentive driving is a factor in one in four crashes in Minnesota, resulting in at least 70 deaths and 350 serious injuries per year.

Talking on a Cellphone

Most Minnesota drivers are allowed to talk on their cellphones and wireless devices while behind the wheel. However, Minnesota law bans school bus drivers from personal cellphone use and motorists under age 18 from all cellphone use, whether handheld or hands-free.

Penalties. For school bus drivers, a cellphone violation is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a maximum $1,000 in fines. And a conviction results in immediate revocation of the driver’s privileges to drive a school bus.

For motorists under the age of 18, a cellphone violation is a petty misdemeanor. The base fine is $50 but, with the added surcharges, the total cost of the ticket is closer to $135. Two or more violations can also delay issuance of a full driver’s license. (Read about Minnesota’s graduated license system for teen drivers.)

Keep in mind that even when motorists are allowed to use a cellphone, it’s still a misdemeanor to drive carelessly in disregard for others’ safety.

(Minn. Stat. §§ 169.13, 169.443, 171.05, 171.055, 171.17, 609.03 (2016).)

Texting and Other Use of Wireless Devices

All drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, which includes accessing the Internet or other data on a device. This prohibition applies when the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic (for example, sitting at a stoplight). However, the ban doesn’t restrict using a device solely in a voice-activated or other hands-free mode.

Penalties. It’s a petty misdemeanor offense to text and drive. A first violation results in a $50 base fine (around $135 with surcharges). The base fine is increased to $275 for subsequent violations (about $360 with surcharges included).

(Minn. Stat. §§ 169.475, 171.05, 171.055 (2016).)

Exceptions

Minnesota’s distracted driving laws don’t apply to emergency vehicle personnel or when a driver uses a device to seek emergency assistance.

(Minn. Stat. § 169.475 (2016).)

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