Criminal Defense Law Center
West Michigan

The Michigan Distracted Driving Law

District driving has become a serious problem across all West Michigan Courts. There has been accident and after accident caused by people being distracted.  This accident are not just minor fender benders, people are getting seriously injured or killed in these accidents. Because of the increase of serious auto-accidents, the state legislature is adding tough legislation to the michigan distracted driving law.

There were false reports recently about Michigan passing a new “hands-free” law that supposedly started being enforced on August 1st, 2019. This was fake news and not true.

It is clearly time for Michigan to act on distracted driving. Since Michigan banned texting and driving in 2010, new information has come forward. This information has shown just how dangerous it is to be texting and driving. It has shown how risky it is to be playing on our phones or talking on our phones while we are driving. Currently, the laws on the books in Michigan regarding distracted driving are some of the weakest in the United States.  To make matter worse, the laws are very tough for law enforcement agents to enforce. The message is clear: lawmakers in Michigan do not consider distracted driving a serious priority.

A recent advertisement by the state police in Michigan has a new slogan which says, “Get your face out of your app!” The most recent statistics released by the Michigan State Police force claims that drivers who were distracted by an electronic device while driving caused a massive 5,237 accidents in 2017. These accidents resulted in 1,514 injuries and 23 lives lost.

During her first state of the state address Governor Whitmer asked the legislature to pass new legislation to help prevent district driving. Because of this, the legislature has started the process of of passing tough new laws against distracted driving.

Current Michigan Distracted Driving Law

The current law on the books in Michigan states that:

“… a person shall not read, manually type, or send a text message on a wireless 2-way communication device that is located in the person’s hand or in the person’s lap, including a wireless telephone used in cellular telephone service or personal communication service, while operating a motor vehicle that is moving on a highway or street in this state.”

So, under this law it is ok for a person who is driving an automobile on the road to engage in the following behavior:

  • Typing and reading emails
  • Looking over calendar entries
  • Watching a video on Youtube
  • Reading a social media post
  • Texting while you are riding a motor vehicle.
  • Playing video games
  • Solving a puzzle
  • Reading a text message while you phone is sitting on a dashboard or mount.

Trying to enforce the current law on the books in Michigan is also very difficult. An officer can stop someone for looking at their phone but all the driver needs to do is claim they were doing something other than sending a text message and the officer will have a hard time proving the person was sending a text message with their hands.

A violation for district driving right now is also not very serious. It is only a civil infraction punishable by a fine of only $100.  A second offense violation jumps up to $200. Drivers do not get points on their record.  Most moving violations add points to a person’s record. Other violations are so serious that people face jail time. Michigan’s current distracted driving law gives neither jail nor points on a person’s record.

The Michigan legislature had new laws proposed that would expand the texting ban. These new bills would increase the penalties for drivers who are distracted on the road and putting innocent lives at risk.

Distracted Driving Stats

According to a 2009 study from Virginia Tech Transportation institute, people who text and drive increase the chances of being in a crash or near crime by 23.2 percent. The study found that a person who is dialing a cell phone that is handheld were 12 times more likely to be an auto accident.

Another study done by the AAA Foundation for traffic safety concluded that the crash risk for drivers who were “engaging in all forms of visual-manual cell phone tasks” was almost doubled and “visual-manual cell phone interaction” while behind the wheel made people on the road three times more likely to get into a crash. These same people were seven times more likely to get into a rear-end collision on the road.  

The AAA-Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that: (1) drivers’ overall crash risk “nearly doubled” when they were “engaging in all forms of visual-manual cell phone tasks”; and (2) “visual-manual cell phone interaction” while driving makes drivers three times more likely to be involved in a “road departure crash” and more than seven times more likely to cause a rear-end collision.

House Bill 4198, which was recently proposed, would add some meat to the current distracted driving law.  It would do so by making it illegal for drivers to use a computer, cell phone while they are driving to “read, view, manually type or send an interactive communication or access, read or post to a social media site.”  This bill also bans people driving on the road from doing the following:

  • Wearing headphones or earphones in both ears
  • Recording, transmitting a video or viewing a video on a mobile electronic device
  • Accessing, posting or reading anything on all forms of social media.
  • Using a mobile electronic device. The bills clearly defines a mobile electronic device as a tablet, electronic games, video devices, cameras, cell phones, computers and “any similar device that is readily removable from a vehicle and used to write, send or read text or data or capture images or video through manual input.
  • and “any similar device that is readily removable from a vehicle and is used to write, send, or read text or data or capture images or video through manual input.”

Proposed Distracted Driving Penalties

  • Civil infraction
  • 16 hours of community service for a first offense and a fine of 100 dollars.
  • A 250 dollar fine for a second offense and 24 hours of community service.
  • Fines will be doubled when the distracted driving results in an accident.
  • If there are three or more violations that happen within a three-year period, two points will be added on the driver’s record for every subsequent offense.

Time will tell if these proposals become law. Rest assured that until a new bill is passed, the Michigan legislature and Governor Whitmer will continue to focus on this issue because people’s safety on the road is at stake.

Tips For Avoiding Distracted Driving

Here are some tips to help people avoid distracted driving according to the Michigan State Police,

  • Get familiar with vehicle features and equipment before pulling out into traffic.
  • Preset radio stations, MP3 devices, and climate control.
  • Secure items that may move around when the car is in motion. Do not reach down or behind the seat to pick up items.
  • Do not text, access the Internet, watch videos, play video games, search MP3 devices, or use any other distracting technology while driving.
  • Avoid smoking, eating, drinking, and reading while driving.
  • Pull safely off the road and out of traffic to deal with children.
  • Do personal grooming at home-not in the vehicle.
  • Review maps and driving directions before hitting the road.
  • Monitor traffic conditions before engaging in activities that could divert attention away from driving.
  • Ask a passenger to help with activities that may be distracting.
  • If driving long distances, schedule regular stops, every 100 miles or two hours.
  • Travel at times when you are normally awake and stay overnight rather than driving straight through.
  • Avoid alcohol and medications that may make you drowsy.

Driving while distracted is no laughing matter. People are getting hurt and killed because of people not paying attention to what is going on in front of them on the road. Do not drive distracted, but if you face any civil or criminal charges from you driving, call Shawn now at 616-438-6719. Shawn knows how to get his clients results! The call is free so call today!

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