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When you text and drive, you pay

April 9, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

Spread the word during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month – oh, and watch out for more police handing out tickets for texting and driving

Distracted driving awareness month

“U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” The message from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration during Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April is simple.

The consequences of texting and driving are deadly. But until now, law enforcement and lawmakers in Michigan have been lackadaisical about stopping it. And without enforcement, laws that prevent texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving become merely suggestion.

As an attorney, I’ve seen a significant uptick in the people I represent being injured by texting drivers, and I’ve written about how disappointing Michigan has been protecting against this, especially compared to other states.

Here’s the law in Michigan and penalties for using a cell phone while driving.

The laws, and now the enforcement, are finally catching up to the very real danger texting while driving poses to the public.

From April 10 to 15, 2015, law enforcement in Michigan and throughout the country will be cracking down on texting while driving. Enforcement strategies include roving police patrols, spotters strategically located on local and state roadways and stationary police vehicles prominently placed around communities to observe and cite violators of the law.

As of January 2015, 44  states, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. All but five have primary enforcement. An additional four States (MO, MS, OK, TX) prohibit text messaging by novice drivers. Three states (MS, OK, TX) restrict school bus drivers from texting, according to the NHTSA.

Just how dangerous is distracted driving?

In 2013, 3,154 people were killed and an estimated 424,000 people were injured in distraction-affected crashes, according to the NHTSA.

And according to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving blindfolded at 55-mph for the length of an entire football field.

Societal notions still have yet to catch up to the dangers of texting and driving. People may show some umbrage at other drivers, but do it themselves.  Experts compare it to American attitudes toward drinking and driving in the 70s, before MADD and other groups made it more socially unacceptable and made the fines and punishments dramatically harsher.

The official U.S. government website on distracted driving has many valuable resources for parents, teens and educators including state laws, real stories of victims and how you can take the pledge to commit to safe driving.

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