Despite the widely publicized dangers of distracted driving, cell phone use continues to be a major cause of serious auto accidents. In an effort to curb this alarming epidemic, the Michigan House of Representatives passed three bills that would restrict the use of hand-held cell phones and other devices and impose stricter penalties on those who violate the laws. After passing the House with a bipartisan majority of 75-26, the proposed legislation was referred to the Michigan Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.
Currently 24 states, plus D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have laws prohibiting the use of hand-held cell phones by drivers of all ages.
Here is an overview of the new proposed laws and how they will affect Michigan drivers. Watch this space for further updates as the bills proceed through the legislative process.
HOUSE BILL 4277: PROHIBITS ALL HAND-HELD MOBILE ELECTRONIC DEVICES
This bill significantly expands the current law, which prohibits texting while driving but does not specifically prohibit drivers from using their phones or devices in other ways such as watching or recording videos and even participating in Zoom calls.
The new law will make it illegal to use any hand-held mobile electronic device while driving, including the following:
- Cell phones
- Electronic games
- Equipment capable of taking photographs or recording or playing videos
In addition, drivers are specifically prohibited from “accessing, reading, or posting to a social networking site” and/or “viewing, recording, or transmitting a video on a mobile electronic device.”
The new law allows certain exceptions that include the following:
- Using a mobile electronic device in hands-free or voice-activated modes
- Using a GPS or other navigational system as long as information is not entered by hand
- Selecting a name or number to make or receive a call
- Using a mobile device to summon help in an emergency such as a traffic accident, a crime or other safety risk
- Mobile device use by law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs and other public safety personnel or public utility employees responding to an emergency
Recommended reading: The Three Types Of Distracted Driving: What Every Michigan Driver Should Know
HOUSE BILL 4278: STIFFER PENALTIES FOR DRIVERS WHO BREAK THE LAW
Under the current law, first time violators may be subject to a $100 fine, while subsequent offenders may pay up to $200. No points are issued.
This will change under the new law, wherein drivers would receive one drivers’ license point for a second offense and two points each subsequent violation.
In addition, first-time offenders must pay a fine of $100 or perform 16 hours of community service. Subsequent offenses are subject to a $250 fine and/or 24 hours of community service.
Further, drivers can be charged with more serious offenses such as reckless driving or even manslaughter if they cause an accident or endanger other motorists as a result of using an electronic device.
Recommended Reading: The Michigan Cell Phone Laws Every Driver Needs To Know
HOUSE BILL 4279: BANS ALL CELL PHONE USE BY DRIVERS UNDER 18
This bill is an expansion of Kelsey’s Law, which prohibits Level 1 and Level 2 license holders under the Michigan Graduated Driver Licensing Program from using cell phones in any capacity, with the exception of integrated voice-operated systems and emergency situations.
The new law would ban all cell phone use by drivers under 18, including hands-free and voice-operated modes. Additionally, the restrictions set forth in House Bill 4277 regarding using social media and viewing or recording videos, will also apply to teenage drivers. Further, these violations will no longer be exempt from being entered by the Secretary of State on an individual’s driving record.
Recommended reading: Distracted Driving Statistics All Michigan Drivers Should Know
WHEN WILL THE NEW LAWS TAKE EFFECT?
In order to become law, the bills have to be approved by a majority vote in the Michigan Senate and then signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who has expressed support for stricter cell phone laws. In 2019, a similar set of bills were passed by the House but declined by the Senate. However, advocates for the new legislation are hopeful these bills will soon be signed into law.
The new laws would take effect 90 days after their enactment, and individual bills cannot become law unless all three are approved.
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