LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The use of handheld cellphones while driving a car will be outlawed in Michigan under legislation signed Wednesday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that will take effect on June 30.
The new law will expand Michigan’s ban on texting and driving to apply to all handheld cellphone use while operating a motor vehicle, including making calls or scrolling social media. Motorists will still be able to use hands-free devices.
“We need to remove distractions and make our roads safer for everyone who’s using them,” Whitmer said at a bill signing in Plymouth. “Each traffic death is more than just a statistic. It’s a human being.”
Over half of all states currently have bans on handheld devices for all drivers. Data released earlier this year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that in 2021 there was a 12% rise in fatal crashes involving at least one distracted driver, with 3,522 people killed.
“Today is a great day for the safety of all Michigan drivers,” said the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Matt Pulzar.
Penalties for distracted driving will also increase. A first offense could cost drivers $100 and/or 16 hours of community service and then $250 for each subsequent offense and/or 24 hours of community service.
If a driver accumulates three or more violations within three years, a court could require that a driving improvement course be taken.
Law enforcement, first responders and other public emergency workers will still be allowed to use a cellphone while performing official duties. Anyone calling or texting 911 or other emergency services will also be exempt from the law.
The new law will take effect during the most dangerous time of the year to be on the road, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Whitmer said.
Multiple individuals who have lost family members to distracted driving crashes joined Michigan lawmakers at the bill signing. Steve Kiefer, a retired General Motors executive whose son, Mitchel, was killed in a 2016 distracted driving crash, said that while “we can’t bring our loved ones back, this legislation will help save hopefully all of your loved ones.”
Mitchel was a freshman at Michigan State University when he died.
States that have enacted distracted driving bans have seen drops in crashes by 9%-20%.
Now, if you’re caught holding your phone while driving, it’ll cost $100-$250 with 16-24 hours of community service.
Those caught using a phone three or more times in three years will have to complete a driving course.