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Why doesn’t Michigan treat texting while driving like drunk driving?

December 16, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

Since texting while driving is as dangerous, shouldn’t texting be subject to the same punishment?


If, as the science says, texting while driving a car is as dangerous – or even more dangerous than drinking and driving – then shouldn’t texting  be subject to the same harsh punishments as our society imposes today on drunk driving?

My opinion: Yes. It should.

Texting and driving today reminds me of how our society used to view drinking and driving. This was before MADD and before society became increasingly intolerant of the toll in ruined lives from drinking and driving. Punishments were once light, jail time was rare, and there was not the social stigma that there clearly is today for people who drink and drive.

It’s a good bet that one day, people will look back on our current punishment for people who text and drive the same way that we look back on the law and punishments for drunk driving 40 years ago.

How light is the punishment for texting and driving today?  A $100 fine for first offense.

The science says that the average driver will take his eyes off the road for approximately 4.6 seconds. That’s like driving the entire length of a football field blindfolded, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the Governors Highway Safety Association.

But if texting is just as dangerous, then the fines and punishments should be the same.  Rather than the measly $100 fine for a first offense (and $200 for a second or subsequent offense) under Michigan’s texting while driving ban, texting drivers should be faced with the same serious punishments designed for drunk drivers:

  • Imprisonment.
  • Jail time.
  • Tens of thousands of dollars in fines and responsibility fees.
  • 6 points on the driving record upon conviction.
  • Driver’s license suspension upon conviction.
  • Driver’s license suspension and 6 points on the driving record for refusal to comply with the “Implied Consent” law allowing police to inspect a driver’s cell phone and/or wireless 2-way communication device.

Tomorrow we will delve into the science and research that shows that texting while driving is actually more dangerous when driving a motor vehicle than drinking and driving.

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