New Michigan law banning device use while driving takes effect
A state law that bans holding phones or other electronic devices while driving took effect Friday. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the law in early June so it would take effect in time for the July 4th holiday weekend.
It expands Michigan’s ban on texting while driving to include holding a device. There is an exception for reporting an emergency. Devices can be used in hands-free mode.
Supporters say the new law will save lives.
“I was proud to sign bipartisan legislation to reduce distracted driving in Michigan and save lives,” Whitmer said in a statement released by her office. “The new law is a step toward reducing distracted driving deaths and making sure everyone can be safe on their way to school, home or work.”
Whitmer has set a goal of moving Michigan toward zero traffic deaths by 2050.
Violators of the new law face a $100 fine for a first violation and a $250 fine for any violations after that.
Drivers who violate the law three or more times during a three-year period could also be ordered to complete a driver safety course. Michigan is the 26th state to have a distracted driving law that bans holding devices.
Michigan already had a law that bans texting while driving. The Michigan Department of Transportation has posted signs along highways and at state borders alerting drivers to the new law.
“The whole goal here is deterrence,” said Jeff Cranson with MDOT. “It’s not about trying to get traffic stops or generate revenue. The hope is that the more people that are aware of this, the more people will put their phones down while driving.” MDOT said traffic crashes dropped by nine percent in Ohio following the enactment of a similar law.
Katie Bower with the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning said the new law could also have an effect on auto insurance premiums.
“Insurance costs in states where this has been enacted, those states have seen insurance costs go down,” she said.
Bower said her office is also trying to draw attention to other types of distractions that take eyes off the road that are unsafe, but not illegal.
“Even eating in the vehicle, checking yourself in the mirror, reaching behind you in a seat to grab something – those are all other types of distractions,” she said. “So, our main message here is to just drive.”