House votes to ban drivers under 18 from using cellphones in Michigan

Posted at 4:25 PM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-12 16:25:39-05

Drivers younger than 18 would be prohibited from using cellphones except for emergencies under legislation the Michigan House approved Wednesday.

Michigan now bars drivers with a learner’s or intermediate permit — those as young as 14 years, 9 months to those at least 16 years old — from using a phone while operating a motor vehicle. The measure, which cleared the Republican-led chamber 87-21, would also eliminate an exception that lets those with the graduated level one and two licenses use a voice-activated phone system in the car.

“We do need to make a more serious push to ban distracted driving,” said the bill sponsor, Democratic Rep. Mari Manoogian of Birmingham, who added it leads to thousands of crashes every year. “While I’d like to see more legislation that would go further to extend to everybody, this is a great first step to make sure that our newest driers are keeping their hands on the wheel and off of their phones.”

The vote was applauded by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has called for Michigan to adopt a hands-free law further restricting the use of mobile devices while driving. She urged the GOP-controlled Senate to pass the House bill after it returns to session in January.

“As a mom, there’s nothing more important to me than the safety of my kids, and I know every parent in Michigan feels the same way,” Whitmer said in a written statement. “That’s why Rep. Manoogian’s legislation is so important. We don’t just need better roads, we need safer roads.”

The House did not vote, however, on two related Republican-sponsored bills that were passed by a committee last week. One would extend Michigan’s texting-while-driving ban — which applies to adults and minors — to also prohibit the use of electronic devices to read or post on social media, play video games, take photos and record video except with hands-free technology. The other would increase the fine for violators to $250, from $100, for a first offense and to $500, from $200, for a second or subsequent infraction.

The sponsors “can still work them and try to build support, but right now there’s not” enough support in the GOP caucus, said Gideon D’Assandro, spokesman for House Speaker Lee Chatfield of Levering.