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Distracted driving? The Michigan State Police are now watching you!

November 5, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

MSP will revamp UD-10 ‘crash report’ to gather more information about driver distractions as a cause of auto accidents; a very positive change for safer roads


It’s about time.  Distracted driving, including texting, has been a huge cause of automobile accidents. But Michigan seems to trail many other states in efforts to stop this, despite the dangers it poses to motorists, passengers and pedestrians.

As an auto accident attorney, I practice in Michigan, but also in some other states. I’ve noticed that police in other states have been much better at investigating whether texting and other forms of distracted driving were a cause of automobile crashes. I’ve criticized our state for its lackadaisical efforts to stop distracted driving many times on the pages of this Auto Law blog.  I’ve said often that a law without enforcement is just a suggestion.   And in the case of Michigan drivers, it is a suggestion that gets ignored far too often.

It looks like Michigan is finally coming along in its efforts to more aggressively stop drivers from texting and driving distracted. The Michigan State Police is revamping its UD-10 “Traffic Crash Report” to gather more information about the driver distractions that are causing Michigan crashes.

Here’s how John Agar of MLive/The Grand Rapids Press described this new development in his story, “Distracted driving is focus of new Michigan police reports”:

“The change asks police to determine what drivers were doing before the crash, if they were texting, typing or dialing, or talking on a hand-held or hands-free device. The report asks if drivers were listening to an audio book, settling a global-position system, or if they were distracted by a passenger.”

All of the auto accident attorneys here at Michigan Auto Law have seen first-hand the number of preventable car crashes caused by distracted driving. It is a huge and very real danger. It is also everywhere. That’s why I applaud the Michigan State Police’s commitment to protecting the public and its latest effort to bring an end to distracted driving.

And the MSP’s timing couldn’t be better.

Distracted driving is on the rise in Michigan.

Its involvement in Michigan car crashes increased approximately 8% between 2013 and 2014 and approximately 52% between 2008 and 2014, according to Michigan Traffic Crash Facts’ “Driver Condition” data. (“Driver distracted” is a “driver condition[] that, in the opinion of the investigating officer, [was] involved in the crash.”)

Plus, lawmakers bewilderingly – and quite recklessly – want to increase the speed limit to 80 mph on some highways and allow faster speeds for truckers and drivers in construction zones.

Increased focus on the dangers of distracted driving and on strategies for eliminating those dangers casts efforts to increase Michigan’s speed limit in an entirely new and different light. As I said during my recent appearance on Fox 2 Detroit’s “Let It Rip” with Roop Raj and Charlie Langton:

“There was a study that came out that said cell phones and texting and driving are responsible for about one out of every four car accidents now. And we’re talking about increasing speed limits at the exact same time that you have more distracted driving than ever before. My biggest problem with this is, it sounds like a great idea in theory, but we know how the story ends.”

To learn more about the ill-advised and dangerous legislative proposal to increase Michigan speed limits – and to watch the video of my appearance on Fox 2 Detroit’s “Let It Rip” – please check out Michigan Auto Law’s blog post, “Why is Sen. Rick Jones talking about 35 mph speed traps when he’s pushing to increase speed limit to 80?”

The Michigan State Police will be looking for these distracted driving behaviors

In its revised UD-10 “Traffic Crash Report,” which takes effect on January 1, 2016, the Michigan State Police have added a new section to collect information about driver distractions that cause Michigan auto and truck accidents.

The new section is called “Driver Distracted By” and it is intended “to capture” information about “both internal and external distractions that may have contributed to the crash” and/or “caused the driver to become distracted,” according to the MSP’s August 5, 2015, “2016 UD-10 Revision.”

The types of driver distractions that the police will be looking for include:

  • Operating an electronic communication device (texting, typing, dialing)
  • Talking on hands-free electronic device
  • Talking on hand-held electronic device
  • Other activity, electronic device (book player, navigation aid)
  • Passenger
  • Other activity inside the vehicle (eating, personal hygiene, etc.)
  • Outside the vehicle (includes unspecified external distractions)

Although “distracted driving” is not per se a Traffic Code violation, texting-while-driving is most definitely. Here’s more information about the penalties for texting-while-driving.

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