The Legislature will probably pass a hands-free bill. Whether it’s going to make driving in Minnesota safer is less clear

Minnesota legislators will make another push to require those who want to talk on the phone while driving to use hands-free devices.

Similar bills have fallen short in the recent past. But even those who once opposed such measures now say they think horrific crashes caused by distracted drivers have become too prevalent to vote no again. Gov. Tim Walz says he will sign a bill if he reaches his desk.

But to get to passage, supporters of the legislation have to either ignore or rationalize the research behind distracted driving. Research done by psychologists and others shows that calls made with hands-free systems are not, in fact, significantly safer than calls made while holding a cellphone.

“It is as distracting to have a hands-free conversation as to have a hand-held conversation,” said Ira Hyman, Jr., a professor of psychology at Western Washington University. “It’s really not about what your hands are doing. It’s about where you head is, where your mind is. When it is occupied trying to hold a conversation, you can fail to see things that pass directly in front of you.”

Thursday, January 17, 2019 - 9:46am