LANSING – The use of handheld cell phones while driving a car will be outlawed in Michigan under legislation signed Wednesday by Gov. Whitmer that will take effect on June 30.
The new law will expand Michigan’s ban on texting and driving to apply to all handheld cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle, including making calls or scrolling social media. Motorists will still be able to use hands-free devices.
“We need to remove distractions and make our roads safer for everyone who’s using them,” Whitmer said at a bill signing in Plymouth. “Each traffic death is more than just a statistic. It’s a human being.”
If you’re driving, your eyes should be on the road, not on your phone. Let’s work together so no family has to go through the pain of losing a loved one to distracted driving. — Governor Whitmer
More than half of all states currently have bans on handheld devices for all drivers. Data released earlier this year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that in 2021 there was a 12 percent rise in fatal crashes involving at least one distracted driver, with 3,522 people killed.
The newly signed legislation will make any cell phone use that isn’t hands-free illegal, including scrolling, searching, calling, etc.
The language in the bills will amend Michigan law to make it illegal to “use a mobile electronic device to do any task, including, but not limited to” the following:
- Send or receive a telephone call.
- Send, receive or read a text message.
- View, record or transmit a video.
- Access, read or post to a social networking site.
If a person is caught holding or using a cell phone, or mobile electronic device, while driving a regular motor vehicle, they would face the following fines:
- First violation: $100 fine or 16 hours of community service, or both.
- Second or subsequent violation: $250 fine or 24 hours of community service, or both.
If three violations occur within a three-year period: The driver would be ordered by the court to complete a driver improvement course.
If a person driving a commercial vehicle or a school bus is caught holding or using a cell phone, they would face the following fines:
- First violation: $200 fine or 32 hours of community service, or both.
- Second or subsequent violation: $500 fine or 48 hours of community service, or both.
Under the rules, if a crash were to occur and the at-fault driver was holding or using a cell phone while driving, any civil fines ordered “must be double the amount that would otherwise be ordered.”
If a driver accumulates three or more violations within three years, a court could require that a driving improvement course be taken.
Exceptions to the rule
There are some exceptions to the new driving rules.
Law enforcement, first responders and other public emergency workers won’t be prohibited from using a cell phone while performing official duties. The same exception goes for anyone calling or texting 911, a law enforcement agency or another emergency service to report an emergency or seek help.
The legislation will take effect during the most dangerous time of the year to be on the road, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Whitmer pointed out.
Drivers also won’t be prohibited from using their GPS, but only if they aren’t using and holding their phone to access it or type in information. A phone could be used as navigation system so long as it is in a hands-free fashion, such as mounting it to the dashboard or using voice commands to control it.
Generally, hands-free cell phone use will be allowed, such as using a system built into the vehicle, or using voice commands to access the phone.
Red lights are not exceptions, however. Even if a driver is at a complete stop at a red light, it would still be illegal to hold and use a cell phone.
Michigan is the 26th state in the U.S. to establish hands-free driving laws.
“Too many Michigan families know the unbearable pain of losing a loved one in an avoidable accident caused by a distracted driver.” Gov. Whitmer said. “With this law, we will combat distracted driving, make our roads safer, and save countless lives.”
Now that Gov. Whitmer has signed the legislation, officials have to work with law enforcement officers to ensure they have the resources to pull over and cite drivers violating the law.
The state also has to inform drivers of the new rules — especially if the rules are to take effect by the end of June.