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New law could ban cell phones in construction zones

Posted: Updated:
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

DFL Rep. Ron Erhardt has introduced a bill that would ban motorists from using their cell phones while driving through construction zones.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said there have been about 11,485 work zone crashes in the past five years, causing more than 4,833 injuries and 54 deaths.

Each death devastates a family, and on Monday, lawmakers heard from two widows of Minnesota Department of Transportation Workers who were killed on the job.

"Craig probably didn't know what hit him on that day because he had no warning and no time to get out of the way," Deb Carlson testified.

Carlson's husband was killed in a construction zone two and a half years ago, but she said her husband often complained about drivers using cell phones before his death.

"He did make a lot of comments about how fast people would go zooming by, that they were distracted," she explained. "A lot of cell phones became more of an issue."

Both handheld and hands-free devices would be included under the new law, which would also lower speed limits and raise fines.

"I shake my head," Jodi Rajkowski, whose husband was killed in a crash on 35W, admitted. "Do they really need to be going 65 in a work construction zone with people working on the roads? No. Definitely not."

HF-1949 says: "No person may operate a motor vehicle while using a cellular phone, whether
handheld or hands-free, when the vehicle is (i) in motion or a part of traffic, and (ii) in a work zone."

READ: Full text of the introduced bill

If passed, the bill could go into effect as soon as Aug. 1.

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