Cell phone law in Michigan aims to prevent teen car accidents
Update: This bill passed the state Senate and is now headed to the house.
Car accidents are one of the top killers of teenagers in the United States. Government data shows that every year, more than 4,000 teens lose their lives in car accidents that are caused mostly by distracted driving.
Distracted driving includes everything from having too many passengers, to using a cell phone or texting while driving. Poor driving decisions also figures prominently as a cause for so many teen deaths.
I’ve spoken at Law Day to teenagers from over a dozen Oakland County high schools for almost ten years now, trying to spread awareness about the dangers of teen driving, and especially now the dangers of cell phones and texting while driving. So I’m excited to share the news of a proposed law that aims to reduce the number of preventable teen driving deaths. SB 756, which would ban phone use by teen drivers, is now making its way through the Michigan Senate. A full vote is expected soon, hopefully in March.
The bill prohibits cell phone use by drivers with a Level 2 graduated license, when 16-year-olds can drive without an adult. A violation would be a civil infraction, but a fine hasn’t been set yet in the proposed legislation.
About 30 other states already have similar laws prohibiting cell phone use by young drivers. It’s a good idea that’s proven to reduce the number of preventable car accidents, and it’s about time it was adopted in Michigan.
Sen. Howard Walker of Traverse City introduced SB 756. The bill was born from a campaign by a constituent in his district: Bonnie Raffaele’s 17-year-old daughter Kelsey was talking on a cell phone when she crashed into an on-coming SUV. Kelsey died in the car accident, and her mother has been urging teens in northern Michigan to stop using cell phones while driving.
As Michigan car accident lawyers, we are in strong support of this legislation. Why not take action to prevent car accidents caused by distracted driving, especially with teen drivers are more vulnerable and less experienced behind the wheel?
Teens and cell phones by the numbers
Here’s an interesting teen study from the Pew Research Center that illustrates the relationship between teens and their cell phones.
A few notable facts from the study:
- One in three (34 percent) texting teens ages 16-17 say they have texted while driving. That translates into 26 percent of all American teens ages 16-17.
- Half (52 percent) of cell-owning teens ages 16-17 say they have talked on a cell phone while driving. That translates into 43 percent of all American teens ages 16-17.
- 48 percent of all teens ages 12-17 say they have been in a car when the driver was texting.
- 40 percent say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger.
Other current distracted driving legislation
Below is some information about other distracted driving legislation that’s in the works in Michigan for the 2011-12 year:
House Bill 4208: Would establish graduated penalties for causing an accident while driving and viewing a TV screen or similar electronic device. Exempts screens related to vehicle use such as dashboard operation systems.
HB 4209 (tied to 4208) makes killing a person while using an electronic device such as a TV a class C felony. In injury case, class E felony. No legislative activity on these bills in over a year.
Michigan’s ban on text messaging for all drivers took effect in July 2010. Penalties are $100 for the first offense and then $200, with no points. State police said in February 2012 that 1,149 drivers have been ticketed, according to an article on Hands-Free Info about the proposed teen cell phone ban.
Commercial truck drivers are also banned from using cell phones while driving.
Let’s keep this trend going and make it illegal for teens to use cell phone while driving. All it can to is save more lives.
– Steven Gursten is a car accident lawyer and head of Michigan Auto Law. He president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association. Steve frequently writes and speaks on safe driving and Michigan auto laws, and is available for comment.
– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Lord Jim
Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit. Call (800) 777-0028 or to speak with one of our Michigan car accident lawyers.