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Proposed bills aim to modernize texting while driving laws in Michigan

Posted at 5:47 AM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 05:50:28-04

LANSING, Mich. — Three new Michigan bills introduced to the state house would change current laws on texting while driving.

The new bills are an attempt from lawmakers to keep restrictions up to date with the latest advances in technology.

It's unclear exactly when this three-part bill package, if passed, could become law.

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Lawmakers behind the bills say they have until the end of December to get it to the Governor's desk and be voted on and they say it's crucial it gets there because right now the current law just doesn't meet the advances of today's technology.

State Representatives Mari Manoogian D-Birmingham, Mike Mueller, R-Linden, and Joe Bellino, R-Monroe introduced the three bill package which would essentially modernize our distracted driving laws.

VIEW THE BILLS: House bills 4277, 4278 and 4279

"We have laws on the books right now that prohibit distracted driving in the form of texting while driving. but we know that our cell phones have all really become basically mini computers that we keep in our pockets, and we use all day long," Rep. Manoogian said.

"So the current laws on the books, don't take account, take into account any sort of social media, Zoom meetings, anything that we use, where we live stream from our devices. and so these laws would modernize that."

These laws would be applied to all drivers with the exception of public safety officers and those dialing 911 in an emergency.

Voice-operated or hands-free devices are also okay, but any use of holding your phone for dialing, texting or social media would result in a fine.

Each offense would increase in fines, which State Representative, Rachel Hood of the 76th District, hopes will serve as an incentive for drivers.

"So fines will be moving from $100 to $250 for a first violation and then from $200 to $500 for subsequent violation and hopefully those increased fees and fines will be a deterrent and help to change behavior so that we can all be safe on the road," Rep. Hood said.

Whether you are guilty of it or not, distracted driving is a problem, one that's become difficult for officers to enforce and these bills, hope to change that.

According to AAA – The Auto Club Group:

  • Distracted driving kills nine people every day.
  • In Michigan, there were 64 fatal crashes involving a distracted driver, resulting in 71 deaths in 2019. The report also gathered poll data where 39% of drivers admitted to reading their phone while behind the wheel.
  • 29% of people admitted to typing on a smartphone, at least once while driving.

Lt. Michelle Robinson, Public Information Officer for Michigan State Police's 6th District, says texting while driving is just one fraction of the problem on the roads.

State troopers have seen a significant increase in speeding, with drivers reaching speeds over 100 mph as well as impaired driving at all times of the day.

While MSP can't say if these bills will stop distracted driving in its tracks, it's a step in the right direction and ultimately depends on the individual driver.

"If we see someone texting and driving, which you can see quite clearly when you pass someone on the expressway, for example. and if they have their mobile device on their steering wheels, and they're texting, we will pull them over. that is that is a stop that we can make," Lt. Robinson said.

"This is common sense legislation, it's nonpartisan. it's something that we can all get behind as a community and so we're really excited about the opportunity to bring this across the finish line," she said.

The bill had some difficulties getting to that finish line when they tried to submit them last session when it never made it to the senate.

Rep. Manoogian says she and the other representatives behind these bills have been reworking some of the language and figuring out how to label autonomous vehicles, and other modern advances so, they are having those discussions and hope to get it to the governor's desk in the near future.

AAA offers these tips to avoid distracted driving:

  • Put it away (place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation)
  • Know where you're going (if using a navigation system, program the destination before driving)
  • Pull over (if you must call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.)
  • Ask passengers for help (if riding with someone, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a message)
  • Be a good passenger (speak out if the driver of your vehicle is distracted)
  • Don't be a distraction ( avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving)
  • Activate do not disturb (setting up this feature on iPhone or Android device will prevent calls from coming in while you're driving)