Legal Edge: Proposed bills strengthen anti-distracted driving laws

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Last Saturday would have been the 23rd birthday of Mitchell Kiefer. He was killed by a distracted driver in 2016 while on his way to class at Michigan State University.

His family started the Kiefer Foundation, an organization dedicated to fighting distracted drivers and strengthening anti-distracted driving laws.

His family formed a friendship with a Michigan lawmaker who introduced three bills that aim to toughen Michigan’s distracted driving laws.

Local attorney Bryan Waldman explains these bills.

“Michigan has some of the very weakest laws regarding distracted driving,” said Waldman.

The only thing the average, non-commercial driver is prohibited from doing on their phone while driving is texting, said Waldman. Meaning watching YouTube, going on Instagram, playing games and all other functions aren’t illegal to do while operating a car.

The proposed bills ban using any kind of mobile electronic device while driving, aside from emergency workers and possible specific exceptions, such as dialing a phone number or accepting a call.

The current penalties for distracted driving in Michigan start with a $100 fine and $200 for subsequent offenses.

The proposed bills would change the law, allowing judges to inflict a $100 fine or up to 16 hours of community service for a first offense. For the second offense, a $250 fine and/or 24 hours of community service.

After the third offense, the judge can suspend a violator’s license for up to 30 days.

“This is a change in the law that the Governor has been pushing with the Kiefer foundation since her first State of the State address,” said Waldman. “It looks like it’s finally got some bipartisan support. I think most motorists agree that there’s too much distracted driving out there.”

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