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MICHauto and Chamber Applaud House Passage of Distracted Driving Bills

Three bills that would increase penalties for people who use their phone while driving, for texting purposes or otherwise, passed the House by a wide margin Tuesday. The bills would make driving and talking or texting on a phone a crime with increasing fines. Under the bills, drivers would still be allowed to use their phones while driving, as long as it is hands-free.

“Too many drivers are still using mobile devices while driving, and this legislation is critical to help improve safety, reduce crashes, and save lives,” said Glenn Stevens Jr., executive director of MICHauto and vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives for the Detroit Regional Chamber. “MICHauto applauds House lawmakers on passing these bills and is grateful for the leadership of the Kiefer Foundation to end distracted driving.”

What is in the legislation

The bills would also prohibit accessing, reading, or posting to a social media site while driving. Current state law only bans texting while driving, however this legislation would look to prohibit a person from using a “mobile electronic device” – defined as a cell phone, pager, laptop, and other electronic devices such as a game – when driving a motor vehicle or school bus. These bans would not apply to emergency personnel like police and fire officials, nor would it a public utility employee or contractor when responding to a public utility emergency.

“They serve as a way to encourage better behavior from drivers on our roads and allow our law enforcement to keep those who are driving distracted in check,” said Rep. Mari Manoogian (D-Bloomfield Hills).

Under the bills, a first-time violation would lead to a $100 civil fine or 16 hours of community service. An individual responsible for a second or subsequent offense would be ordered to pay a $250 civil fine or perform 24 hours of community service, or both.

If the individual was involved in an accident at the time of his or her violation of the section, these civil fine amounts would be doubled and an officer investigating the accident would have to note in a written accident report that the individual was using a mobile electronic device at the time of the accident.

According to 2019 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Distracted driving crashes killed 3,142 people in the United States – an average of nine deaths per day.
  • That number was up 10% from the year before (2,839 deaths in 2018).
  • In Michigan alone, there were 64 fatal crashes involving a distracted driver, resulting in 71 fatalities in 2019.