- Hold the Phone! Michigan’s Cell Phone Driving Laws Could Soon Become Stricter
Hold the Phone! Michigan’s Cell Phone Driving Laws Could Soon Become Stricter
We’re a week into April – otherwise known as Distracted Driving Month – and we were wondering… have you been an April Fool?
Take a moment to think about how many times this month you’ve driven while using a hand-held device. If you did this even once, you should know it may not be long before holding your phone while behind the wheel could land you in loads of legal trouble.
That’s because the Michigan House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would outlaw the use of hand-held phones while driving. The vote was approved by a lopsided 75-26 margin, meaning it’s probably just a matter of time before the Senate acts and Governor Whitmer signs final legislation into law.
Why Is Michigan Considering This Change to Cell Phone Laws?
If that happens, Michigan will join a growing number of states that prohibit drivers from holding their phones when they’re behind the wheel. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Michigan would become the 25th state to ban hand-held phone conversations for drivers. That doesn’t necessarily stop you from talking, however – you can still use your phone’s hands-free function, and with systems like Apple’s CarPlay you can even ask Siri or another virtual assistant to dial numbers for you. Not to mention that there are numerous convenient smartphone holders that will help you keep your navigation screen front-and-center while you’re on the road. In short, with so many hands-free options, you really don’t need to hang onto a phone at all anymore while driving. So, why take the risk?
What Are the Laws Regarding Texting While Driving in Michigan?
As the Michigan State Police note, it’s been illegal to text and drive in Michigan since 2010. Going far beyond that restriction, the proposed new law would mean anyone holding a cell phone to chat, check email, play games, watch a TikTok video, or perform any other number of other distracting activities, would be subject to fines and potentially (for repeat offenders or those who get into accidents while using hand-held phones) even more significant punishments.
Of course, that’s all hypothetical at the moment. But if you’re being totally honest, take a moment to imagine someone talking, texting, tapping, TikTok-ing and taking selfies – all while trying to stay in a narrow traffic lane… you’ll probably agree with us that it’s almost impossible to drive safely when using a phone for nearly any reason, and that’s how car accidents happen. For now, though, just know that merely texting someone while you’re driving is bad enough. In fact, national statistics show it’s six times more dangerous than driving under the influence.
What Cell Phone Laws Apply to Michigan’s Teen Drivers?
For some Michiganders, it’s already illegal to talk on a hand-held phone while driving. We’re talking about relatively new drivers – teenagers with graduated driver’s licenses (also known as GDLs). Since 2013, legislation known as “Kelsey’s Law” has made it unlawful for younger drivers to initiate or answer calls while behind the wheel. Named for Kelsey Raffaele, a teen who died in a 2010 crash traced to cell phone use, this law applies to drivers with GDL status 1 and 2, and carries a potential $295 fine for ticketed offenders. In recent years, there has been some talk of expanding Kelsey’s Law to make any use of cell phones illegal by teen drivers, though that is still under consideration.
Can I Use My Phone When Pulled Over or Stopped at a Red Light?
You may be wondering about some other technicalities surrounding Michigan’s cell phone laws. For example, are you really “driving” when you’re stopped at a traffic signal? Is it legal to take that opportunity to quickly sneak a peek at a text message that’s just appeared?
A Michigan State Police spokesperson said that there’s nothing in current law that prohibits checking a message or even sending a reply when you’re fully stopped at a red light. Of course, we don’t recommend doing so. After all, how many times have you been stopped at a traffic signal and tapped your horn to alert someone in front of you that the light has turned green? Probably more times than you would care to wager a guess! Likewise, eating while driving is permitted in Michigan – though we suggest avoiding hot or messy foods that could inadvertently cause an accident like this one, where a truck driver lost his load (and perhaps his job) as the result of a mishap with a taco!
It’s also not illegal – at least not yet – to set or adjust your phone’s GPS navigation system while driving, but we suggest pulling over or asking a passenger to handle that task. Remember – the purpose of navigation apps is to arrive at your destination as quickly —and as safely — as possible. A brief roadside stop could save you from years of heartache (or worse) if you were to cause an accident when trying to set up your GPS while driving.
Finally, please be advised that at least one Michigan city has already banned any use of hand-held phones while driving. In 2019, Battle Creek enacted a city ordinance making it illegal for drivers to hold their phones in a moving vehicle. While we know of no other Michigan cities that have such laws in place at this point, it could be only a matter of time… especially if the statewide ban recently approved by the Michigan House of Representatives isn’t fully adopted.
In summarization, April has been named Distracted Driving Month for some very good reasons. And you should know that law enforcement officers won’t be fooling around if you’re pulled over for misusing your phone while driving. On the flip side, if you or someone you love are ever injured by a fool using a phone while driving, you’ve got a friend at Mike Morse Law Firm. We’ll do anything in our power to see that you are compensated for your injuries and losses if that ever happens. Call us at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946) or use our online contact page to get in touch.