Three new Michigan bills introduced in the state House would change current restrictions on texting while driving in an attempt to update them for advances in technology.
The current law has not kept up with modern advances, said co-sponsor Rep. Mari Manoogian, D-Birmingham.
“Distracted driving constitutes a serious danger to Michigan drivers,” she said, “but the law simply has not kept up with the advances of mobile technology. These bills solve the technological oversights from stem to stern.”
“It’s time we give law enforcement the tools necessary to properly dissuade people from driving while using their cellphones,” she said. “We (are creating) penalties that make people think twice about picking up their cellphones while driving.”
According to the CDC, about 2,500 teenagers died in motor vehicle crashes in 2018. The CDC also cites a 2019 survey that shows 39% of U.S. high school students text or email while driving.
The other two bills in the package are sponsored by Reps. Mike Mueller, R-Linden, and Joe Bellino, R-Monroe. Their bills address points on a driver’s license records.
The legislation saw a fair amount of bipartisan support Tuesday, April 13 in a House Judiciary Committee hearing. However, Rep. Ryan Berman, R-Commerce Township, challenged the enforceability of the law, arguing an officer wouldn’t be able to observe the mobile activity of a driver from the perspective of their car.
“Right now, (a driver) can say ‘No, I was on the GPS or doing something else.’ It’s very hard to enforce or see what they’re doing,” he said, “and especially with the Supreme Court ruling that you need a search warrant to go through somebody’s phone.”
A law enforcement officer would not be able to search a motor vehicle, driver, or passenger in the car solely based on a distracted driving violation. However, the officer could issue a citation solely based on an observed violation.
The legislation is about setting a culture of avoiding distracted driving, Mueller said.
“People can make up excuses for whatever they want,” he said, “but at the end of the day, what we’re again trying to do is curb the cultural behavior to prevent death because of people using their phones while driving at 70 or 80 miles per hour.”
The bills will continue to be deliberated in the House Judiciary Committee.
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