The Michigan texting and driving law is intended to stop people from texting while operating a motor vehicle. Texting drivers are 23x more likely to be involved in a crash than non-texting drivers. This blog provides an overview of Michigan law as of 2022.
The goal of Michigan’s texting law is to help make our roads safer for everyone. Sadly, nearly 12 years after the Michigan texting and driving law took effect, we still have our work cut out for us.
Distracted driving-related car crashes including those involving texting drivers increased approximately 27% from 1,888 to 2,394 in Michigan between 2016 and 2020. Tragically, fatal crashes involving distracted and texting drivers nearly doubled during that same 5-year period.
As a car accident attorney, I see this dangerous trend reflected in my own cases. There has been a sharp increase over the last several years in distracted driving and in people texting while driving. Texting and distracted driving are now the biggest single cause for most of the automobile accident cases that I handle.
Below I will discuss Michigan’s texting and driving laws in more detail. I believe reducing the number of distracted driving accidents that occur is the most important first step we can take today toward making our roads more safe. To that end, I proudly serve as the current Chair of the American Association for Justice Distracted Driving Litigation Group. I also speak regularly to lawyers at legal seminars and to high school students and parents throughout Michigan about the dangers of distracted driving. Additionally, I have litigated and worked with plaintiff personal injury lawyers on catastrophic injury truck accident cases around the country where we have proved fatigued driving and serious violations of the hours of service through cell phone downloads that show not only texting, but also playing games and apps, and even streaming movies while driving these big rig trucks around the country. I’ve been able to show truck drivers are in a completely different city and even state than what they recorded in their logs through cell phone downloads.
To learn more, please check out this video of my presentation at Berkley High School in Berkley, Michigan:
What is the texting and driving law in Michigan?
The Michigan texting and driving law prohibits all drivers – regardless of their age or whether they are driving a passenger vehicle, commercial vehicle or school bus – from texting while driving on Michigan roadways. (MCL 257.602b(1) and (2))
Specifically, the law states that a driver “shall not read, manually type, or send a text message on a wireless 2-way communication device . . . including a wireless telephone used in cellular telephone service or personal communication service, while operating a motor vehicle that is moving on a highway or street in this state.” (MCL 257.602b(1) and (2))
What are the penalties for violating the Michigan texting and driving law?
It is a civil infraction that carries with it a $100 fine for a first offense and a $200 fine for a second or subsequent offense. A texting driver who is not a truck driver or a school bus driver will incur no points on his or her driver’s license. (MCL 257.602b(6); 257.320a(2))
Unfortunately, these “penalties” are unjustifiably lenient and wildly disproportionate to the very real dangers posed by texting drivers to everyone else on our roads.
Texting drivers are 23x more likely to cause a car accident than non-texting drivers.
Plus, the science shows that texting drivers can be more dangerous and a bigger threat to people on the road than drunk drivers.
Under legislation that passed the Michigan House of Representatives on January 25, 2022 – and which is now pending in the Senate – lawmakers are proposing to the increase the penalties for texting while driving as follows:
- A first violation would result in a $100 fine and/or 16 hours of community service. (House Bill 4277)
- A second violation would result in a $250 fine and/or 24 hours of community service. (House Bill 4277)
- Fines are doubled if the driver “is involved in an accident at the time the individual violates” the texting ban. (House Bill 4277)
- A second violation would result in 1 point on the texting driver’s license. (House Bill 4278)
- A third or subsequent violation result in 2 points on the texting driver’s license. (House Bill 4278)
Is a violation of the law considered a “primary” offense?
Yes. Violation of the Michigan texting and driving laws is a “primary” offense, which means that the police can stop a driver solely or primarily for a suspected violation of Michigan’s ban on texting while driving.
Although the statute does not specifically state that texting while driving is a “primary” offense, traffic violations that can only be enforced by the police as “a secondary action” to a separate traffic violation are typically designated as such in the statutory language.
What does the law say about hands-free texting?
The statutory language of the Michigan texting and driving laws appears to allow drivers to use hands-free cell phones and devices to text. Michigan law only specifically prohibits drivers from texting from a cell phone or device “that is located in the person’s hand or in the person’s lap.” (MCL 257.602b(1))
The Michigan texting and driving laws do not specifically address texting that drivers engage in through the use of a “hands-free” device, a voice-operated system that’s integrated into a person’s car or truck or a device that is otherwise affixed or mounted or installed within a person’s vehicle.
Can a texting driver be sued for causing a crash after violating the Michigan texting and driving laws?
If a driver violates the Michigan texting and driving laws and causes a car accident resulting in injury or wrongful death, then that the person who was operating the vehicle while texting can be sued for causing a car accident. The driver (and owner of the vehicle if it is registered in a different person’s name) can both then be sued in a lawsuit for wrongful death and/or pain and suffering compensation and economic damages. In some cases, the business or another individual can also be sued and added to a car accident lawsuit under the theory of respondeat superior or remote texter liability.
Does the law address remote texter liability?
The Michigan texting and driving laws do not address remote texter liability, which is the legal concept that if you text a person whom you know is driving and will likely answer your text even if driving, then you may be held legally liable if the person causes a crash resulting in injury or death.
Remote texter liability is something that everyone should take seriously, but it should become a top priority for businesses that regularly communicate via text with delivery drivers and employees who drive as part of their job.
As I told the Detroit Free Press when they interviewed me about the potential impact of remote texter liability on businesses:
“If you text your employees while they’re behind the wheel [and they’re “likely to read and reply to your text messages”], you could be sued on the theory of ‘remote texter liability’ if the employee whom you’re texting gets in a car crash and injures or kills someone else.”
To learn more, check out this video:
What are the penalties if your violation of the Michigan texting and driving laws results in a crash?
If a driver violates the Michigan texting and driving laws and causes a crash, he or she faces penalties such as: (1) a criminal conviction; (2) possible jail time; (3) fines; and (4) points on the driver’s license. The penalties will depend on whether the crash resulted in death, injury or property damage.
Specifically, the law provides the following penalties depending on the type of crash:
- A texting driver who causes “the death of another person” is guilty of a misdemeanor and could be sent to jail for a year and/or ordered to pay a fine of $2,000. (MCL 257.601d(1))
- A texting driver who causes “serious impairment of a body function to another person” is guilty of a misdemeanor and could be sent to jail for up to 93 day and/or ordered to pay a fine of $500. (MCL 257.601d(2))
- A texting driver who causes “an at-fault collision with another vehicle, a person, or any other object” will get “4 points” on his or her driver’s license. (MCL 257.320a(1)(l))
Were you injured by someone who violated the Michigan texting and driving laws? Call Michigan Auto Law first
If you have suffered a personal injury in a car accident caused by someone who violated the Michigan texting and driving laws 2022 and you would like to speak with an experienced attorney, call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our car accident attorneys. You can also get help from an experienced auto accident attorney by visiting our contact page or you can use the chat feature on our website. Steven Gursten is the current President of the American Association for Justice Distracted Driving Litigation Group. He lectures and teaches auto accident attorneys throughout the nation on what distracted driving is and on how to obtain evidence of distracted driving in their own cases. Steve has spoken at national lectures, seminars, conferences and webinars on the subject of distracted driving evidence and discovery. Also, Steve speaks to high school students and parent groups throughout Michigan as part of Joel Feldman’s End Distracted Driving Campaign school and parent presentations.
(Source: Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, Fact Sheets, Cell Phone Use, 2016 and 2020)