April 12, 2022 by Steven M. Gursten

April is distracted driving awareness month. Let’s use this time to save lives and prevent car accidents. Distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. It poses serious dangers for all drivers, but especially teen drivers.

Research has shown that a driver’s risk of being involved in a car accident increases dramatically when he or she uses a cell phone when driving.

This is especially true for teen drivers. As a group, teen drivers face a unique threat from distracted driving because their brains are still developing and, thus, they have not yet built up the same ability (that most adults have) to control impulses (because the prefrontal cortex of the brain is still developing) and to be able to resist the temptation to answer a text when driving.

To learn more about teen drivers and distracted driving, please check out this video:

Statistics for all drivers

In recognition of distracted driving awareness month, our attorneys wanted to share the following statistics:

  • The total number of distracted driving-related motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. increased approximately 11% between 2015 and 2019, from 885,000 to 986,000.
  • Distracted driving was a factor in 9% of all fatal crashes, 15% of all injury crashes and 15% of all motor vehicle crashes in total in the U.S. in 2019.
  • Crashes involving distracted driving resulted in 3,142 deaths and 424,000 people being injured in the U.S. in 2019.
  • 6% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes in the U.S. in 2019 were distracted at the time of the crashes.
  • Distracted driving-related car crashes (i.e., where a driver was using a cell phone) in Michigan increased approximately 27% overall between 2016 and 2020.
  • Fatal distracted driving-related auto accidents (i.e., where a driver was using a cell phone) in Michigan increased approximately 88% between 2016 and 2020.

Statistics for teen drivers

Being distracted while driving is extremely dangerous for teen drivers. In honor of distracted driving awareness month our attorneys wanted to share the following statistics:

  • 9% of the teen drivers (aged 15 to 19) who were involved in fatal crashes in the U.S. in 2019 were distracted. No other age group had a larger proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the fatal crashes they were involved in.
  • 7% of the people who died in distracted driving-related crashes in the U.S. in 2019 were teens (15 to 19 years of age).
  • 11% of the teens who were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. in 2019 were in crashes that involved distracted driving.
  • Ten percent of people killed in crashes involving a teen 15 to 19 in 2019 died when teen drivers were distracted.
  • More than 17% of the drivers involved in distracted driving-related crashes in Michigan in 2020 were “20 years of age or younger.”

Legal updates for distracted driving awareness month

Distracted driving awareness month is an excellent time to urge your State Senator to support pending legislation which – if passed by the Senate and approved by Governor Whitmer – would allow only hands-free use of cell phones while driving and would ban drivers from accessing social media and viewing videos. Most people do not know that the science clearly shows that hands-free driving can be just as dangerous as using a hand-held cell phone when driving a car.

On January 25, 2022, this pending legislation passed the Michigan House of Representatives and was sent to the Michigan Senate for consideration and deliberation. No action has yet been taken by the Senate.

In recognition of distracted driving awareness month, here are more details about the bills that were proposed specifically to the state of Michigan:

  • House Bill 4277 would prohibit drivers from using a “mobile electronic device” such as a cell phone while driving, unless the driver can use the phone in “a voice-operated or hands-free mode” that does not require the driver to use his or her hands to operate the phone. The bill would also prohibit a driver from “accessing, reading, or posting to a social networking site” and/or “viewing, recording, or transmitting a video on a mobile electronic device” while driving. Under the bill, drivers would continue to be banned from using a hand-held phone to text while driving.
  • House Bill 4278 would impose 1 point on a person’s driver’s license for a second violation of the new restriction and 2 points for a third or subsequent violation.
  • House Bill 4279 would amend Kelsey’s Law to state that teen drivers are banned from all use of a cell phone while driving – whether the phone is in hands-free or voice-operated mode.

Highlighting protections for teen drivers during distracted driving awareness month

During distracted driving awareness month, it is important to remember and remind others about Kelsey’s Law, which is designed to protect teen drivers by prohibiting them from using a cell phone while driving. Like other drivers, teens cannot text while driving. Unlike other drivers, teens are also prohibited from using and talking on cell phones while driving.

In support of HB 4279, which would strengthen Kelsey’s Law and its ability to protect teen drivers, I have written a letter to Michigan lawmakers to take action on and pass the bill.

Importantly, if passed, HB 4279 would close the existing loophole in Kelsey’s Law that permits teen drivers to talk on a cell phone while they are driving if they are using a “voice-operated system.”

As I told the Michigan lawmakers in my letter:

“HB 4279 would rightly eliminate the loophole, thus prohibiting young, novice drivers from all cell phone use (handheld or hands-free) while driving. Young drivers should learn, as soon as possible, the good, safe, responsible driving habits they will be using for the rest of their lives. If we allow them to think that driving while being distracted by a phone conversation is okay when they are learning to drive, then they will never have reason to think otherwise. Driving while using a cell phone is dangerous. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has found that dialing a handheld mobile phone while driving made the driver “12 times more likely to crash” . . . Similarly, the AAA-Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that newly licensed teen drivers are approximately six times more likely to have a serious incident when there was loud conversation in the vehicle.”

Kelsey’s Law Scholarship and distracted driving awareness month

In honor of distracted driving awareness month and in partnership with Bonnie Raffaele, mother of Kelsey Raffaele whose tragic death was the impetus for passage of Kelsey’s Law, Michigan Auto Law offers the Kelsey’s Law Scholarship every year to Michigan high school juniors and seniors to encourage them to persuade their peers to refrain from distracted driving.

To meet the Kelsey’s Law Scholarship winners for 2022, check out this video:

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to check out their winning submissions in the categories of video, graphic and Tweet.

Click here to learn more about the Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship – including the application deadline for 2023.

Car crash risks and what we can do beyond distracted driving awareness month

The #1 thing we can do now during distracted driving awareness month and throughout the year is to eliminate distractions when we are driving. That starts with putting the phone away. Pledge to your family and yourself that you will not text or use your cell phone while you are driving.

Those are the distractions to start with because the crash risks associated with both put the drivers themselves and everyone else on the road in danger:

  • Drivers who are texting are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
  • Drivers who are dialing a handheld cell phone are 12 times more likely to crash, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

Were you injured in a distracted driving car accident? Call a Michigan Auto Law attorney for a free consultation

If you or a loved one was injured in a distracted driving car accident and you have questions about your legal rights to pain and suffering compensation, economic damages and auto No-Fault insurance benefits, you can call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our experienced car accident attorneys. You can also get help by visiting our contact page or you can use the chat feature on our website.

(Source: “Distracted Driving 2019,” NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts-Research Note, April 2021; Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, Fact Sheets, “Cell Phone Use,” 2020; “Teen Distracted Driver Data,” NHTSA, “Teens and Distracted Driving 2019,” February 2021)

Distracted Driving Awareness Month: April 2022

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