What Are the Details of the Law?
The law bans texting and driving in most instances and prescribes penalties. The details and exemptions are:
- Reading, typing, or sending text messages is generally prohibited for all drivers.
- Exceptions to the law are hands-free systems operated by voice or those who have a driverless car.
- Penalties are $100 for the first offense and $200 for the second offense, and no driver's license points are taken except for truck or school bus drivers.
- Taking and making phone calls using hand-held or hands-free devices is allowed for drivers, with exceptions being truck and bus drivers and teens with Level 1 or Level 2 graduated licensing status.
What Are the Dangers of Distracted Driving?
Driving while distracted can be very dangerous, even when not breaking any cell phone usage laws. Being distracted is a factor that can show negligence in an accident; a driver who uses a cell phone can be held responsible for property damages and injuries at the time of an accident.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over 2,800 people were killed by distracted drivers in 2018, and about 400,000 more were injured. About one in five of the deaths were not in vehicles but were pedestrians and others outside a vehicle. Distracted driving is any activity that takes your attention away from the task of driving and increases the chances of an accident.
There are three types of distracted driving:
- Visual. Taking your eyes off the road to check your phone or another device, for example.
- Manual. Removing your hands from the steering wheel to eat or pick up a cell phone
- Cognitive. Allowing your mind to wander away from the task of driving through a conversation or monitoring kids or pets.
Distracted driving has a more significant effect on younger people. According to the CDC, 25% of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes were aged 20-29. Among the drivers in fatal crashes, drivers ages 15-19 were more likely than any other age to have been distracted.
Will Michigan Update Distracted Driving Laws?
Lawmakers have proposed legislation to expand distracted driving laws to limit mobile device usage by drivers further, potentially adding hands-free regulations that only allow voice commands or one-touch to a device to accept or make a call or send a message. Current laws only prohibit texting using hand-held devices in your hand or lap but don't address hands-free, voice-command, or mounted mobile devices.
Proposed legislation likely will make mobile device usage while driving illegal, which includes reading emails, manually typing a phone number, engaging in social media, watching videos, or manually keying an address into a navigation system. The proposed legislation may also target other mobile devices like laptops and tablets. As with any law, exemptions will exist. For example, law enforcement and emergency officers would be free to use mobile devices that are part of their jobs; calling 911 for emergencies using GPS and without typing would also be permissible under proposed changes in the law.
The proposed legislation also seeks to increase the current fines of $100 and $200 for first and second offenses. The first violation would be $100 or 16 hours of community service, and a second violation would be a $250 fine, 24 hours of community service, or both. Drivers involved in an accident while using a mobile device would face doubled fines, notation of this violation in the accident report, and potential license suspension. Driver's licenses would be assessed one point for the first and second violations and two points for three or more violations.
While there are laws in the books for distracted driving at the state level, cities may enact local ordinances. Cities with their own restrictions include Detroit, Troy, and Battle Creek. The municipalities post signs saying that hand-held phone usage while driving is prohibited in city limits.
How Can Distracted Driving be Prevented?
Distracted driving can be prevented using measures at the friends and family, state, and federal levels. Drivers and their friends and family can take steps to lower the risk of distracted driving. Drivers can avoid multi-tasking during trips and use phone applications that turn phone features off while driving. Passengers can redirect a distracted driver and reduce distractions by assisting with navigation or other tasks. Parents should talk to their young drivers about the importance of paying attention to the road, set a good example, and set consequences for bad driving behavior.
States, including Michigan, are changing laws to help prevent distracted driving. Michigan has banned texting and driving but is also looking at banning other hands-on use of cell phones and other portable devices. In addition, Michigan has a graduated licensing system for young drivers with restrictions like no cell phone use for those with driver's permits. Rumble strips are also becoming more common on state highways to alert drivers who are departing their lanes.
The federal government is also moving to curb distracted driving. Texting and cell phone use are restricted for federal employees while driving for the job, railroad employees, and commercial drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has sponsored several campaigns to raise the dangers of distracted driving and has issued voluntary guidelines for the safety of in-vehicle and portable and aftermarket devices.
Goodman Acker, P.C. Provides Compassionate Legal Assistance to Injured Clients
Distracted driving can cause otherwise preventable accidents that lead to personal injury, death, and property damage. Victims of accidents caused by distracted drivers likely have a stronger claim of negligence, especially in situations where distracted driving leads to charges and notation in the accident report.
At Goodman Acker, P.C., we value honesty and integrity and hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards. Our Detroit personal injury lawyers have guided numerous clients to successful outcomes in a variety of cases. If you have been injured in a car accident or other type of accident, we will tirelessly fight on your behalf as you seek justice from those responsible. Contact our office today to receive a free, no-obligation consultation with our trusted and reputable attorneys.