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Texting while driving – Frequently asked questions

August 23, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Our Michigan personal injury lawyers are answering the most common questions to help raise awareness of the danger of distracted driving

This week, we kicked off a giveaway sweepstakes to help bring awareness to the dangers of texting while driving. If you visit our Facebook page, you can enter to win a $1,032 check by watching a quick video on distracted driving and filling out a brief form.

Texting while driving, and distracted driving in general, is causing an ever increasing number of preventable car accidents. Here are some common questions our personal injury lawyers usually get asked.

Q. What is the law in Michigan regarding texting while driving?
A. The Michigan texting while driving ban prohibits reading, typing or sending text messages using a wireless two-way communication device in a person’s hand or lap while driving a car. Here’s the statute.

Q. What happens if I’m caught texting while driving?
A. Under Michigan law, texting while driving is classified as a primary offense. This means you can be pulled over and ticketed based on a text messaging offense alone. Violators face a fine of $100 for the first offense and $200 for subsequent offenses.

Here’s the interesting part: a texting ticket does not come with points, and will not become part of a driver’s permanent record. Here are more FAQs about the Michigan texting and driving ban.

Q. How dangerous is texting while driving?
A. If you’re texting while driving, your chances of being in a serious car accident or truck accident increase 23 fold. This is according to a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study. The study found that “sending and receiving text messages is by far the riskiest behavior, because it diverts the driver’s attention from the road for extended periods of time.” A driver sending a text message may have his or her eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds over a six-second period, and is 23.2 times more likely to be in a car accident than while not distracted.

Q. What can I do to help stop texting while driving?
A. There are several things to you can to do help stop texting while driving.

o Participate in the Michigan Auto Law distracted driving campaign: Again, you can visit our Facebook page at Facebook.com/MichiganAutoLaw, watch the video on distracted driving, and pass it on to your friends for the chance to win a $1,032 check. The check amount is the average price to purchase good No-Fault auto insurance that includes uninsured and underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage to protect yourself and your family.

o Make a pledge to not text and drive: This can be done with your family, friends and your children.

o Lead by example: If you are a parent, lead by example and do not text and drive. Parents can also enforce household rules that prohibit their teens from texting while driving.

o Pull over to send that text: If you must send a text, make sure you pull over into a safe, well-lit place away from traffic before you do so.

Q. Since I’m trying not to text, is it illegal to use a Bluetooth in Michigan (which allows voice-activated, hands-free texting)?
A. Technically it’s not illegal, and it is better than talking on a handheld phone, but not as much as you would think. We still advise drivers not to use a Bluetooth if they can avoid doing so. I’ve written a blog on this subject already: Is using my Bluetooth illegal with Michigan’s texting while driving ban?

Our best guess today is that a device not located in a driver’s hand or lap, that is capable of sending text messages that are not “manually” typed, should be permitted by the statute. Because one’s eyes would not leave the road and distract a driver’s attention, texting in such a way would not disobey the behavior which the statute seeks to promote. This is assuming that if you have a Bluetooth to create and send texts, and this Bluetooth is also hands free, this would not violate the texting while driving ban.

Still, as a Michigan personal injury lawyer who has handled far too many preventable car accidents due to distracted driving, I believe that texting “hands-free” is problematic and dangerous. A person using the Bluetooth that can create/send texts hands-free would still probably read those text messages at some point. And if the reading is done while driving, it raises all the same issues about distraction and impaired reaction time.

Steven M. Gursten, partner of Michigan Auto Law, is recognized as one of the nation’s top personal injury lawyers. Steve has received the top verdicts and settlements for car accident or truck accidents cases in the past three years, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He frequently blogs about distracted driving and is available for comment.

Related Information to protect yourself:

6 tips to keep your teen drivers safe

iPad while driving? Seriously?

Michigan safe driving tips

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you. Call (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with an one of our personal injury lawyers.

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