Michigan lawmakers are mulling updates to the state’s texting and driving ban aimed at keeping phones out of drivers’ hands — whether it’s sending a text, taking a call or posting on social media.
Texting and driving is already illegal in Michigan, and drivers caught doing so are subject to a $100 fine for first-time offenses and $200 a pop for subsequent violations.
But because that law was passed in the era of flip phones, police can’t issue a citation if someone is using their phone to stream a video or post on social media, Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, said.
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Koleszar is a lead sponsor on a bipartisan bill package to make Michigan the 26th “hands-free” state, barring most cell phone use while a car is in motion.
“The idea is to save lives that are lost, unfortunately, due to distracted driving,” he said.
Collectively, House Bills 4250, 4251 and 4252 would prohibit drivers from holding a mobile electronic device while driving in most circumstances, including making or taking a call, text messaging, recording a video or using social media.
Exceptions include equipment used by police, fire and emergency responders, and individuals could also use their phones to report a traffic accident or crime. Drivers would also be allowed to use a cell phone mount, Bluetooth or in-vehicle systems for handling calls, navigation or music.
All three bills were unanimously reported to the House floor Wednesday by the House Transportation, Mobility and Infrastructure Committee. To become law, they need majority support in the House and Senate and a signature from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Similar legislation has been introduced in previous sessions and passed the House last term, but none have yet become law.
Two-way radio devices, CB or ham radios and electronic medical devices such as insulin pumps would also still be allowed under the bills.
Similar to existing law, violations would be treated as a civil infraction — but a court could order a temporary license suspension for repeat offenders, and penalties increase if the distracted driving caused an accident.
The proposal would initially come with a five-year sunset “just to make sure that these are doing what we aim for them to,” Koleszar said. He said he’s optimistic that the legislation can get to Whitmer’s desk this term.
Whitmer has previously expressed support for the concept.
Other backers include transportation groups, brain injury organizations and retired General Motors executive Steve Kiefer, whose son Mitchel was killed after being rear-ended by another driver on I-96 in 2016.