EAST LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation into law earlier this month to keep distracted driving off the road in Michigan and in hopes to take deaths from distracted driving down to zero.
"On June 30, 2023, which is this Friday, the state of Michigan is becoming the 26th state to become a hands-free state," said Michigan State Police Public Information Officer Lt. Rene Gonzalez.
Hands-free means no more holding your phone while driving. It has to be in a holder or connected to the car for hands-free navigation. You are still free to touch the screen to navigate maps and music, but the device cannot physically be in your hands.
Since the law is pretty straight forward, Gonzalez says the price tag for a violation is pretty hefty.
"The first offense is a $100 fine. The second offense I believe is a $200 fine, and they may make you go to a driving school and that type of thing. So it progresses as the more citations you get," said Gonzalez.
And a driving school is where it all starts. At Central Driving School in Okemos, Program Director Anthony Neff says learning to be without the cell phone is the first thing his students learn.
"This is kinda funny because I take the phone away from them day one of the class," said Neff.
That's to drive the message home so kids pay attention to the class and then, eventually, the road. Neff encourages everyone to put their phones where you can't reach them so that it's not a distraction.
"Turn it off, put it on silent and put it where you can't get to it like the glove box," said Neff.
I then tested the dangers of cell phone usage on a closed course with Neff. First without my phone and then with my phone. I was going 35 miles per hour both times.
The second time around I searched for my favorite song while driving, Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams."
And while I scrolled for that song, I almost went through a stop sign, and I noticed that I had only gotten through some of the songs that start with B.
While Neff and I shared a laugh on the closed course, he explained that when it's real life and faster speeds, it might be too late.
"If you're looking at your phone and you're going 55, every few seconds you're going the length of a football field. And imagine if someone pulled out of that side road. I mean you've already hit them," Neff said.
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