(The Center Square) – Michigan State Police have given 1,563 citations and written warnings for the new distracted driving law over about five months.
From July through late November 2023, MSP issued 720 citations and 843 verbal warnings for the law to keep drivers focused on the road to prevent distracted driving and road deaths, according to documents obtained through records requests.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the law in June. The law restricts cellphone use while driving, other than for exceptions such as hands-free use, emergency use, using a device’s navigation feature as long as the information isn’t entered by hand, or using a single button press, tap or swipe to activate or deactivate a device or to select a name or phone number.
More than 1,000 people have died on Michigan roadways annually since 2020 in crashes caused by excessive speed, driving intoxicated and distracted, and other factors.
There were 1,123 traffic crash fatalities in Michigan during 2022, a 1% decrease from 1,131 fatalities in 2021. Data show a five-year trend starting in 2018 in traffic fatalities increased by 15%, from 974 deaths in 2018 to 1,123 in 2022.
The number of crashes in Michigan also increased from 282,640 in 2021 to 293,341 in 2022. Some of the causes of traffic crashes and fatalities were influenced by risky driving behaviors, such as distracted, impaired, and reckless driving, as well as traveling at excessive speeds and not driving safely based on road conditions.
Bicyclist fatalities in Michigan increased from 29 in 2021 to 36 in 2022, up 24 percent.
State, county and local law enforcement enforce traffic laws to ensure residents can travel safely. In Wayne County, the most-populated county statewide, about 54 pedestrians were killed in 2022, 25% of pedestrian fatalities in crashes which is higher than the national average of 15.4%
The hands-free law prohibits holding or using a cell phone while driving a vehicle, including using it for texts, calls, videos, and social network sites. Another law prohibits a driver from texting and driving in a moving vehicle.
Sanctions for violating this new law while operating a vehicle other than a school bus or commercial vehicle would be the following:
For a first violation, pay a $100 civil fine, perform 16 hours of community service, or both.For a subsequent violation, pay a $250 civil fine, perform 24 hours of community service, or both.If an individual is responsible for three or more civil infractions for violations within three years, a court can order the person to complete a basic driver improvement course within a reasonable time as determined by the court.
A civil fine doubles if while violating the above rules, the individual was involved in an accident where they were at fault.
About 2,765 motor vehicle crashes occurred in Michigan in 2021 where a driver was using a cell phone, according to Michigan Traffic Crash Facts. Twenty-one of those crashes involved a fatality.