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Minnesota Cell Phone Laws

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

It’s a smart idea to review Minnesota cell phone laws, whether you just moved to the state or have not read them since your first driving test. When it comes to cell phones in the car, the state enforces hands-free cell phone laws. A good rule of thumb is to always keep both hands on the wheel — with a few specific exceptions.

Drivers can only use voice command or one-touch technology while driving. For example, you can change a song using only the “next” button or use your voice to enter an address on a navigation app. If you need your phone in your hand for more than a few seconds to do something in your car, however, it is generally illegal under Minnesota distracted driving laws.

Minnesota Laws on Cell Phone Use

There are many nuances to traffic laws involving cell phones and distracted driving. We break down Minnesota’s various laws in the table below:

Statutes

Minnesota Statutes on Transportation, Chapter 169:

Texting

All texting is prohibited if you are the driver, except for:

  • Texting through a car or phone's voice command system (i.e., asking Siri to "text mom," saying your message, then asking Siri to send the text); and
  • Receiving texts through your car or phone’s voice command system.

When you are in the driver’s seat, you can only text, type, browse the web, or check email if the car is parked or turned off. Reading or typing while waiting at a red light is illegal.

Phone Calls

Your call must be completely hands-free. You can:

  • Take phone calls through a speakerphone;
  • Use a wireless headset;
  • Use just one earpiece of your headphones (wearing both earpieces is illegal while driving);
  • Use a headband, headscarf, or any wrap to hold the phone to your ear; or
  • Take calls through a car’s built-in speaker equipment or phone integration such as a cable cord.

When you are in the driver's seat, you cannot hold a cell phone to your ear to make a call or listen to a voicemail. Both hands must be on the wheel during phone calls.

Music Apps

Feel free to enjoy music through your car's built-in systems. If your phone integrates to your vehicle, you can play music by:

  • Using voice commands (i.e., saying "OK Google, play my Summer Playlist");
  • Using a car’s one-touch music application system, such as Carplay; or
  • Having a mounted or propped-up phone with a simplified touch screen open, such as Spotify’s Car View.

Tired of a song? You can use voice commands to find a new one or use your car’s buttons or one-touch phone buttons to skip the song. You cannot scroll through music or type in a song title to search for the song on your cell phone.

Navigation Apps

Many smartphones offer navigation or map applications. You can use any navigation apps on your cell phone that use:

  • One-touch access, such as one “go” button on the app screen; or
  • Turn-by-turn voice navigation.

You cannot type in an address while driving, so set the address for your destination on your phone before you drive away. Some vehicles or apps let you save a frequent address as "home" or "work" for easy, one-touch access.

Video Calls, Videos, Photos, and Gaming

Minnesota’s distracted driving laws make it illegal for all drivers to:

  • Use your phone to take photos while driving;
  • Live stream video or audio content;
  • Be on a video call such as Facetime;
  • Use video apps or record videos such as Snapchat videos; and
  • Play games on your phone.

Age Limits

All drivers under 18 years old are banned from using a phone while driving (Section 171.05 and Section 171.055 2(a)), including hands-free phone use or using a phone just for music.

Emergencies in the Car

You may use your phone in an emergency to call emergency services or 911.

Penalties For Cell Phone Use

You may receive a warning or a $50 ticket the first time you are pulled over for cell phone use while driving in Minnesota. A second cell phone-related ticket costs $275. Reckless driving laws will apply if you endanger other passengers or drivers (Section 169.13).

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Cell Phone Voice Commands in Cars

In general, any voice-activated technology, like Google's "OK Google" or Apple's Siri or Android's voice commands are safe to use while driving. Any mounted systems or built-in car systems that can complete actions with one button or one touch of the touch screen are also okay.

Many wearable technology devices, such as smartwatches, have phone call capabilities now. The same rules apply to watches, glasses, and other similar accessories.

Pulling Over to Use Your Phone

It might seem like a good idea to pull over on the side of the road to use your phone. While pulling over is not illegal, it is unsafe on freeways or highways and frowned on by police. If you need to make a call or send a text, turn off the road and find a parking lot.

Minnesota Cell Phone Laws: Related Resources

Police Won’t Accept “Not Knowing” as an Excuse for Cell Phone Use

If you are pulled over for a cell phone offense while driving, Minnesota police may ticket you. Police will not accept excuses for cell phone violations while driving. If you are facing a license suspension or hefty fines, you can contact an attorney experienced in Minnesota’s traffic laws to learn about your options after a distracted driving ticket.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.