Distracted Driving Doubles Michigan Accident Risks

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The Dangers of Distracted Driving in Michigan

The Michigan House just made great strides towards saving lives by passing three bills to strengthen the state’s distracted driving law and increase penalties for violations.

Current Michigan distracted driving law only bans texting while driving. Nothing prohibits a driver from solving the daily Wordle, playing video games, streaming movies, and watching or recording videos behind the wheel ― all activities that are just as dangerous as reading, typing, or sending a text message.

New Michigan Distracted Driving Law

The three new bills, all passed in the House, add restrictions to limit all handheld mobile device use while driving:

  • HB 4277: Prohibits using mobile electronic devices unless in hands-free or voice-operated mode. Drivers also cannot use devices to access, read, or post on social media or watch, record, or transmit videos.
  • HB 4278: Increases penalties for distracted driving. The fine for a first offense increases to $100 and $250 for additional offenses. Drivers will also have one point added to their driver’s license for a second offense and two points added for any subsequent violations.
  • HB4279: Bans all cell phone use for teenagers, even in hands-free or voice-operated mode. Exceptions apply for car accidents, emergencies, and if drivers believe they are in danger.

The next step is for the bills to pass the Senate and go to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to be signed into law.

Why We Need Better Laws

Traffic crash data points to why Michigan needs stronger distracted driving laws. According to Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, 14,236 motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver occurred during 2020 in Michigan, 48 of which resulted in a fatality. With a total of 2,213 crashes, Wayne County yielded the highest number of distracted driving accidents. Rear end distracted driving crashes were the most common, accounting for 44.7 percent of all incidents.

Nationally, distracted driving claimed 3,142 lives in 2020 according to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA), making it the cause of 8.1% of all fatalities that year. A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine also found that newly licensed teen drivers were 8 times more likely to crash or have a near miss when dialing a phone, 7-8 times more likely when reaching for a phone or other object, almost 4 times more likely when texting; and 3 times more likely when eating. They also concluded that the crash risk for experienced adults doubled when using a cellphone. Additionally, in 2019, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a nationwide survey which found that 39% of drivers admitted to reading and 29% admitted to typing on a smartphone at least once while behind the wheel within the past month.

These staggering statistics show the grave consequences of distracted driving and reinforce the necessity to strengthen laws to prevent it. Officials support expanding the current distracted driving law because the existing one is difficult to enforce. With texting as the only offense, drivers could easily say they were engaging in another activity and be compliant with the law.

Texting While Driving Fines

Since 2010, the fine for texting while driving in Michigan has been:

  • $100 for a first offense
  • $200 for subsequent offenses

However, distracted drivers may also be subject to civil penalties if they cause accidents that seriously injure others. Victims could be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit against a distracted driver if their injuries meet the criteria for a serious injury under Michigan law.

Tips for Avoiding Distracted Driving

Nothing is more important than paying attention while driving. Traffic conditions can change in an instant. Neighboring drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians can be unpredictable. A moment’s inattention could lead to disaster.

Distracted driving can more than double the risk of a car crash, so tell yourself, “It can wait.” You can also:

  • Put your cell phone away to reduce temptation.
  • Program your GPS before hitting the road.
  • Don’t wear headphones while driving.
  • Ask passengers for help.
  • Pull over if you need to make a call, assist a child, or reach for a fallen item.

We’re here to help and work every day to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. We fully support Michigan’s effort to curb distracted driving through stronger legislation. If you or someone you love has been hurt in an accident, call or contact us today for a free consultation.

Learn more about how we are raising awareness through our annual Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship – any high school seniors or college students can enter to win $1500 towards college costs.

CLAW employees have a clear message about distracted driving:

Distracted Driving Message from CLAW