Never let anyone say the Answer Man isn’t “hip with the cool kids.” I’m on Facebook, you see, and happened to notice the comments on a recent Post Bulletin article by reporter Emily Cutts on the first day of Minnesota’s hands-free cellphone driving law.
Some readers/commenters questioned the law enforcement exemption. One even noticed that in the video, Rochester Police Officer Aron Lodermeier had his laptop open.
Well, as the Answer Man, I’m going to set the record straight and if not, I’ll at least give you keyboard warriors something to think about.
While it’s true that law enforcement officers are exempt from the hands-free requirement while on duty, that doesn’t mean all of them are openly disregarding the law. Even before the law took effect, the Minnesota State Patrol took things into its own hands, according to Sgt. Troy Christianson. For about six or seven months now, troopers have gone hands-free when it comes to phone calls, with exceptions.
Christianson said that most of the squad cars are bluetooth capable, and bluetooth is used in most cases. But when someone is in the back of the squad, an officer may hold the phone in his or her hand so the other person doesn't hear the conversation.
Rochester Police Officer Aron Lodermeier told Cutts during their ride-along that the new law has changed his behavior inside of his squad car. At one point, he pulled into a parking lot and parked before answering a phone call from a colleague. He added that the department was exploring bluetooth options.
As for laptop use, Christianson said troopers still use them while driving to enter a license plate number. Troopers go through training, “right from rookie school,” on when and how to do that.
Christianson acknowledged, though, that there are a lot of distractions.
And here's a bonus fact for my faithful readers courtesy of the Minnesota State Patrol Twitter account. In the first 10 days of Minnesota’s new traffic laws, troopers have written 740 citations and warnings for hands-free law violations.