House committee continues work on distracted driving bills


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan House Judiciary Committee approved changes Tuesday to a set of bills aimed at limiting distracted driving, advancing them onto the House floor for a second reading.

House Bill 4277 was introduced in February by State Rep. Mari Manoogian, D-Birmingham, who called this new legislation a way to help law enforcement and meaningfully cut down on texting and driving.

“Whether you’re a driver, a passenger, a pedestrian, bicyclist or a road worker, updating this legislation will keep folks safe,” Manoogian said during Tuesday’s hearing.

She says the current laws are “essentially unenforceable” and need to be changed to have an actual impact.

The bill would make two notable changes to current laws of the Michigan Vehicle Code. It would further restrict when drivers could use a mobile device while behind the wheel and it would crack down on what activities can be done.

Currently, drivers can use cellphones in certain situations like being stopped at a traffic light or when in a traffic jam. HB 4277 would end that and require drivers to be legally parked before using a cellphone.

The bill outlines two main exceptions: emergencies — like a 911 call and reporting a crime — or voice command technology. Drivers would be able to use their phones if it is done hands-free.

HB 4277 also provides more context to what can’t be done on a mobile device while behind the wheel, adding more details on social media and livestreaming or recording video.

State Rep. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids, voted to send the bills onto the main House but believes they still need work.

“I’m definitely in favor of these bills, but I’m also worried that (this), just like the initial no-texting bill, had exceptions you could drive a truck through,” LaGrand said. “If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right and let’s keep up with the current technology.”

House Bills 4278 and 4279 make other changes. HB 4278 would add a point to the driver’s record on the second offense and two points for every offense after that. HB 4279 would restrict drivers with a Level 1 or Level 2 license to no mobile device use at all, including voice command.

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