April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. To honor this month and the thousands who have been injured or died due to distracted driving, we invite you to take a look at the facts, the laws and the other issues you need to consider before you drive distracted.
According to the CDC, each day more than 9 people are killed and another 1,100 are injured in the U.S. because of distracted driving. Distracted driving is driving while doing any other activity which takes your eyes or attention away from driving. The three main types of distracted driving are:
- Visual distractions – taking your eyes off the road for any reason
- Manual distractions – taking your hands off the wheel for any reason
- Cognitive – taking your mind off driving for any reason
Since vehicles were first created, there have always been distractions however, as technology has advanced, so too have the number of distractions. Cell phones, drive-throughs and even navigation systems are all common distractions many of us encounter every day. Other distractions include talking to passengers, grooming, reading, watching videos and even adjusting your music. As the number of injuries and deaths continue to rise (3,154 died in 2013 alone due to distracted driving), so too do the laws which relate to activities which may be considered distracting.
Currently, 45 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands all ban text messaging for drivers of all ages. All but five of these states have primary enforcement for these laws meaning that the police officer may both stop and cite you for an observed violation of your local version of this law. Of the 5 states which do not have an all-driver texting ban, 3 do not allow text messaging by novice drivers and 2 specifically prohibit school bus drivers from texting and driving. Further, 14 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands also prohibit drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.
What are Michigan’s Laws?
In Michigan, there is a ban on texting for drivers of all ages. This is a primary law meaning, if an officer sees you breaking this law; they may stop you and cite you for this offense. As of July 1, 2010, the fine for a first offense is $100. Any subsequent offenses are $200. Michigan also bans all cell phone use (hand-held and hands-free) for all novice drivers. This is also a primary law.
The Michigan State Police offer this advice:
- Know your vehicle before you begin driving
- Have preset radio stations and climate control
- Secure all items which may move around while you are driving
- Never reach down to pick up items off the floor
- If you have to deal with anything including children, phone calls etc, safely pull off the road and stop first
- Review maps before driving not while driving
- Take breaks
If you have questions about distracted driving in Michigan, Miranda Bailey-Quick can answer these and other questions. Miranda Bailey-Quick of Harris Law, is a Northern Michigan attorney who specializes in family law, criminal law and others including traffic law.