We have all seen the signs encouraging drivers not to text while driving. While some drivers have taken this advice to heart, many drivers continue to drive while texting, checking their social media page or replying to email. Starting June 30, 2023, Michigan drivers will be banned from holding, and in many cases using, a mobile device while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers who violate the prohibition will face fines and mandatory community service hours.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,522 people died in 2021 due to distracted driving. Since 2010, Michigan law has attempted to address this issue by prohibiting drivers from texting while driving. However, the law applied only while the motor vehicle was moving and did not apply to all mobile device usage. Michigan’s newest distracted driving law expands on the 2010 law and significantly increases the activities prohibited while a driver is operating a motor vehicle.
What activities are banned?
Beginning on June 30, Michigan drivers are prohibited from using, or even holding, a mobile electronic device – like a cell phone – while operating a motor vehicle. This includes using your phone to send or receive texts, record videos or access social media. And drivers are banned from using these devices at all times when the car is being operated — even if their car is stopped at a stop sign or traffic light.
Commercial motor vehicle and school bus drivers face the same restrictions. Additionally, they are banned from even reaching for a mobile electronic device if it will cause the driver to move out of their seat. Finally, drivers with a level 1 or 2 graduated license will be prohibited from using a cell phone to communicate unless they are reporting an emergency, accident or hazard or their safety is otherwise at risk.
What are the exceptions?
There are several narrow exceptions to this ban on cell phone use while driving:
- Drivers may use a device’s GPS function, so long as the information is not entered by hand.
- All drivers, except those with a level 1 or 2 graduated license, may use their device in hands-free modes, so long as they only tap/push/swipe on their phones once to turn on the hands-free setting.
- All drivers may use a device for emergency purposes, such as calling 911.
- Law enforcement officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel may use their phones in the performance of their duties.
What are the penalties?
First time offenders will face a civil infraction that includes a $100 fine and/or 16 hours of community service, and they will have one point added to their driving record. The penalties increase for subsequent violations. Third-time offenders may be required to complete a basic driver improvement course.
Commercial motor vehicle and school bus drivers face harsher fines and community service requirements.
Additionally, this infraction will be considered a “serious traffic violation” for these drivers. If a driver accumulates two serious traffic violations in a three-year period, their license will be suspended for 60 days. If they have three of these violations in a three-year period, they will face an additional 120-day suspension.
For questions on Michigan’s newly expanded distracted driving laws, please contact Madelaine Lane or your Warner attorney.
Warner Summer Associate Adam Ostrander contributed to this eAlert.