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What are the laws regarding drivers and electronic devices?

Question: Can you talk about the law that covers a driver ability to watch a movie, video or broadcast on a cellphone, tablet or computer while driving? What if the passenger is in possession of the device?

Answer: There is a law in Minnesota that says that a television screen shall not be installed or used in any motor vehicle where images from the screen are visible to the driver while operating the motor vehicle.

There are exceptions to the law where video screens are installed in law enforcement vehicles; closed-circuit video systems used exclusively to aid the driver's visibility to the front, rear, or sides of the vehicle; and video screens installed as part of a vehicle control system or used in intelligent vehicle highway applications.

Today's technology makes it very easy to stream video and live broadcasts through your cellphone, tablet and computer. If the driver has visible access to these types of devices, it takes away their ability to be 100% attentive on the task of driving and increases their risk of crashing.

Each year in Minnesota, distracted or inattentive driving is a factor in one in four crashes, resulting in at least 70 deaths and 350 serious injuries. Office of Traffic Safety estimates these numbers are vastly underreported due to law enforcement's challenge in determining distraction as a crash factor.

While many motorists may perceive driving as a routine activity, attentive driving is critical as the traffic environment changes constantly and drivers must be prepared to react.

I know that watching a movie or streaming live TV, for passengers, can help pass the time on long trips, but make sure that this is only visible to the passengers. The driver has a very important job of making sure everyone gets to where they are going safely.

The numbers show that not every driver is getting the message on avoiding all types of distractions while driving. We are losing lives and too many people are being injured because drivers are distracted and it is preventable.

Law enforcement is committed to reducing these types of crashes and we are looking at drivers to make sure they are not looking at any type of streaming device while driving.

Please do your part in helping us reduce preventable crashes on our roadways by putting away all cellphones, tablets and computers while driving. Passengers can do their part by making sure their devices can't be seen by the driver.

A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow — Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us).

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