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Lawmakers introduce 3 bills to ban distracted driving in Michigan

Posted at 5:12 AM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 05:43:49-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Driving while holding your phone is illegal in some states, but not in Michigan. A group of lawmakers wants to change that.

Three bills have been in introduced that would ban using a cell phone unless it is hands-free.

“Making sure that folks are putting their phones down, they are not scrolling through social, they are not on YouTube they are not on Netflix, and that those devices are hands-free, so you can place a call while it is a hands-free device either using something in the vehicle itself or using something that is an additional augmented component,” said Democratic State Representative Mari Manoogian, representing Birmingham.

Manoogian has teamed up with representatives Mike Mueller and Joseph Bellino, two Republican state representatives, to draft and introduce the legislation.

There would be some exceptions to the rule, for example, when reporting an emergency. If passed, breaking this law would cost drivers and could impact driving records.

“A penalty for a first time violation when there isn’t an accident or anything like that is a civil penalty of $100 or 16 hours of community service," Manoogian said. "For the second time you are caught it is potentially a point on your license or a $250 fine and 24 hours of community service."

For Steve Kiefer, a law on the books cannot come fast enough. He lost his 18-year-old son to a distracted driver nearly 5 years ago.

“I actually collapsed, I feel to the ground, it is the most you know draining, just the most horrific news that a parent could ever get,” said Kiefer.

Sept. 19, 2016, is the day Steve will never forget. His 18-year-old son, Mitchel, was on his way to college at Michigan State University. Mitchel was rear-ended while on I-96, his car forced across the median into oncoming traffic. He died in that crash and it was determined the driver of the car that rear-ended him was likely distracted.

“You realize that you can only do so much to protect your children, you can only educate them so much, you can only put them in so safe of a vehicle its other people on the street that can ultimately be the cause of the crash that takes your child away from you,” said Steve.

After the crash that killed Mitchel, Steve started the Kiefer Foundation. Last year they teamed up with stopdistractions.org for an independent study that found 88 percent of Michiganders are in favor of a distracted driving law.

While the state has no laws on distracted driving, smaller municipalities like the city of Troy do.

“In the last few years we average about 200 tickets a year,” said Sgt. Jason Clark with the Troy Police Department.

Sgt. Clark says they have seen some positive results from their distracted driving law.

“We haven’t seen a decrease in the number of overall accidents, that number kind of stays the same, but we have seen a decrease in the severity of accidents, so the injuries have gone down.”