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MI Safety Matters - Michigan Texting Ban: Good Idea, But Hard to Enforce

In the past year, Michigan lawmakers have taken a firm stance on distracted driving. Besides implementing the new “super drunk” law, which imposes tougher penalties on excessively intoxicated drivers, text messaging or using a cell phone while driving has also been outlawed. Any knowledgeable Michigan injury lawyer would compare texting and driving to be just as risky as driving while intoxicated–both distract the driver from the road, making them unprepared should an emergency arise.

According to web resources from the Michigan State Police, the ban prohibits motorists from reading, manually typing or sending a text message while behind the wheel of a moving car. Although violators will not receive additional points on their driving record, they will have to pay a fine. The first offense will cost a driver $100, while each subsequent violation will cost $200. Exceptions to the rules do exist, but only when reporting crashes, crimes, or other emergencies.

Despite the ban on text messaging behind the wheel, law enforcement officials across the state have found it difficult to enforce the less-than-a-year old ban. Although the law came into effect on July 1st, police in Livingston County report that they have not written any tickets for the offense. “It’s really tough to tell if someone is texting while they’re driving because there’s no device for us to tell. Everything is visual,” explained Howell police Chief George Basar.

Basar is not the only officer to find problems with implementing and enforcing the texting ban. Hamburg Township Police Chief Steve Luciano believes it’s difficult to be objective about what a person is actually doing with their phone while driving. “You would have to be driving right next to someone to even try to make the determination if they’re texting while driving,” he said. “How do we know the driver isn’t starting or ending a call, versus texting?”

Should law enforcement stop a motorist on suspicion of texting and driving, the officer can request to see the driver’s text messages. Using the time that the most recent text message was sent, an officer can determine if the motorist was texting and driving. If a serious Michigan car accident occurs, police may obtain a search warrant allowing them to conduct a review of the driver’s cell phone records and determine if texting was a factor.

Even though the ban may be tough to enforce, it was implemented for a reason: to keep motorists’ attention completely on the road, and eliminate all distractions behind the wheel. As a dedicated Michigan injury attorney, it is important to encourage all motorists to drive safely. Taking one’s attention from the road even for a second can end in disaster. It is up to us to guarantee not only our own well-being, but the safety of others as well.