Accidents on Michigan roads are not only caused by alcohol or other intoxicating substances. Texting while driving is a growing “distracted driving” offense. A driver using a cell phone in any way that takes their attention off the road is a danger to themselves and those around them. You know that, other drivers know that and the police live that every day.
What is the Law in Michigan About Texting and Driving?
As technology has become more advanced and used, Michigan law has had to adapt along with it. In Michigan today, it is against the law to type, read, or send a text on any cell phone or other device capable of doing so while driving a vehicle. This includes when stopped at a traffic signal or being stopped because of an accident. Lots of cities and towns have passed their own ordinances that prohibit distracted driving. You can find those laws in and around Lansing, Howell, Brighton, Okemos, Ingham County, Eaton County, St. Johns, Jackson, Ionia, Livingston County, and East Lansing.
Additionally, lots of other Michigan cities have their own ordinances determining the use of cell phones while driving. For example, Battle Creek has an ordinance that bans all use of mobile devices while driving. Other cities have similar ordinances, while some leave it up to state law. Because rules on the road can change from Ann Arbor to Grand Rapids, it is important to be aware of the law where you are.
Are There Ways to Use Your Cell Phone Legally?
Thankfully, as technology has advanced and these laws have come into play, there are also ways to use your cell phone safely in many parts of Michigan. Bluetooth allows for hands-free usage that is voice-activated. This technology is not currently illegal in Michigan, under our state law. However, it might be unlawful under ordinances in other counties or municipalities. As we know, technology changes rapidly, and if Bluetooth devices are considered to be unsafe, they could become illegal for Michigan motorists in the future.
Car manufacturers are also trying to make the roads safer by integrating these new technologies. While Bluetooth devices are mostly legal, there are still risks involved. The problem with texting and driving is that a driver becomes distracted, and this is possible regardless of whether you answered with or without Bluetooth or even the speaker on your cell phone. Becoming distracted while eating while driving can pose a risk to you and those around you on the road. There are lots of ways to put yourself in the very dangerous position of being distracted while driving.
How Dangerous is Texting and Driving?
Since texting while driving has become common, many studies have been done to determine how, if at all, dangerous it is. Texting while driving is considered a form of distracted driving, which simply means that the attention of the driver is not focused on their role as a safe driver. While many activities can fall into this category, those that are most dangerous become against the law.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that texting while driving is one of the worst forms of distraction because it requires visual, cognitive, and manual attention from the driver. A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute says that texting while driving increases the likelihood that you will be involved in a crash by 23 times. Today texting and driving is often considered just as dangerous as drunk driving.
Here in Michigan from 2016 to 2020, crashes involving those texting and driving increased by about 27%. During the same period, fatal crashes involving distracted drivers almost doubled.
What Penalties Are There For Texting and Driving?
Texting and driving in Michigan is a civil infraction, meaning it is not a criminal offense. Much like receiving a speeding or parking ticket, you will have to pay a fine. The first time will be a $100 ticket, but any subsequent offenses will be $200. Unlike a speeding ticket, you will not incur points on your license for the infraction of texting and driving, unless you are a school bus or truck driver.
However, there are further penalties that you can face if texting and driving lead to a crash where someone is injured or killed. This could result in facing felony charges and possibly many years in prison. There is no way to know what will happen when you take your eyes off the road, it is best to avoid texting and driving. We encourage all of our clients to avoid distractions while driving, for the safety of themselves and others.
Do Exceptions Exist?
There are a couple of exceptions to the laws against using cell phones while driving. You will not be punished for calling 911 or other law enforcement agencies to report an emergency while driving. Additionally, you can use your cell phone to report accidents, dangerous road conditions, or any situation that you believe puts driver safety at risk.
You can also report a crime that is about to happen or in progress while driving. If you have a job as an emergency responder, such as a police officer, fire fighter, or paramedic, you are exempted if you are within your job duties.
Ways to Avoid Texting and Driving
These days, our lives are very intertwined with technology. This means that the impulse to check an email or text is difficult to ignore. Some people struggle to not respond immediately to every sound from their phone. For those people, there are extra steps that can be taken to ensure a safe driving environment.
One thing that can be done, and may be helpful to all drivers, is to put your cell phone where you can’t reach it. Having it close by is good in case of an emergency, but keeping it at a distance so you can’t check it at every stoplight can be helpful.
There have been advances to cell phone technology that make it easier for a person to avoid the temptation of texting while driving. You can turn your phone on “do not disturb”, which will keep your phone from making notification noises except for your emergency contacts.
There is also something called driving mode, which will also not let your notifications come through while driving. It even automatically sends those who text you an automatic reply letting them know you are driving. If that person replies “urgent”, or if a person calls twice in a row, then the notification will go through.
Facing Charges in Michigan? You Need an Experienced Distracted Driving Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one are facing charges for causing an accident while texting and driving, you are going to need proven attorneys fighting for you. Our attorneys at The Kronzek Firm are skilled in defending against distracting driving charges from Lansing to Grand Rapids, to Jackson and Livingston County. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t hesitate. Call us today 24/7 at 866-7NoJail. 866-766-5245.