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Michigan Distracted Driving Laws: What You Need To Know

June 21, 2022 by Steven M. Gursten

Michigan Distracted Driving Laws: What You Need To Know

Michigan’s distracted driving laws prohibit drivers on Michigan roads from texting while driving. This applies to all drivers. In addition, truck drivers, school bus drivers and some teen drivers also  cannot use or talk on a cell phone while they are driving. 

Penalties for violating Michigan’s distracted driving laws will depend on whether a person was driving a car or commercial truck, the status/age of the person driving, and whether that violation involves texting or cell phone use. It also depends on whether a person has committed this violation previously. Truck drivers and school bus drivers will also face separate penalties under federal law.

Sadly, most Americans still have no idea just how dangerous distracted driving really is.   We need better education and tougher laws to more effectively deter drivers from engaging in this extremely dangerous behavior. The number of car accident crashes and fatalities continue to increase year after year. Unfortunately, it appears that the existing distracted driving laws do not work. Distracted-driving related motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. increased 11% from 2015 to 2019. Distracted driving crashes where a driver was using a cell phone jumped 27% in Michigan from 2016 to 2020.  During that same period, fatal motor vehicle crashes involving drivers who were using a cell phone spiked 88% in Michigan.

What are the Michigan distracted driving laws?

The Michigan distracted driving laws prohibit all drivers from texting while driving using a hand-held phone or a phone in their lap. Truck drivers, school bus drivers and teens on a Level 1 or Level 2 graduated license cannot use a cell phone while driving. (MCL 257.602b(1), (3); 257.602c(1))

The cell phone ban prohibits truck drivers, school bus drivers and teen drivers from holding, dialing, initiating a call, answering, talking and listening, and/or reaching for a “hand-held” cell phone while driving. (MCL 257.602b(3); 257.602c(1))

Are there exceptions to the Michigan distracted driving laws?

The texting ban does not prohibit drivers from using hands-free devices to text while driving. The cell phone ban for teen drivers does not apply if they are “using a voice-operated system.” (MCL 257.602c(3)) Adults other than truck and school bus drivers are not barred from using a cell phone while driving.

What are the penalties for texting drivers under Michigan’s distracted driving laws?

A driver who uses a hand-held “communication device” to text while driving faces the following penalties under Michigan’s distracted driving laws: (1) being responsible for a “civil infraction”; (2) a $100 fine for a first violation; and (3) a $200 fine for subsequent violations. (MCL 257.602b(1), (6))

Generally, a texting driver will incur no points on his or her driver’s license. (MCL 257.320a(2))

Under Michigan distracted driving law, truck drivers and school bus drivers who violate the ban on texting while driving will get two (2) points on their driver’s license. (MCL 257.602b(2),(3) and (6); 257.320a(1)(u))

Michigan law also provides that truck drivers and school bus drivers who have two (2) texting violations within 36 months will have their license suspended for 60 days. Three (3) violations within 36 months results in a 120-day day suspension on top of the 60-day suspension. (MCL 257.319b(1)(a)(i) and (b)(i) and (10)(b)(ix))

Under federal law for drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) – which Michigan has adopted – truck drivers and school bus drivers who text while driving a commercial vehicle or school bus face a $2,750 fine and other sanctions against their CDLs. (MCL 480.11a(1)(b))

What are the penalties for drivers who use a cell phone while driving?

For most drivers, there is no penalty because the cell phone ban does not apply. A teen driver who uses a cell phone while driving will have the restrictions on his or her learner’s permit increased. (MCL 257.602b(6)(a-b); 257.310e(7)) Truckers and school bus drivers face fines, points and license suspensions.

Under Michigan distracted driving law, the penalties for truck drivers and school bus drivers who use a cell phone while driving include: (1) being found responsible for a “civil infraction”; (2) a fine of $100-$200; and (3) getting two (2) points on their driver’s license. (MCL 257.602b(2),(3) and (6); 257.320a(1)(u))

Michigan distracted driving law also provides that truck drivers and school bus drivers who have two (2) cell phone violations within 36 months will have their license suspended for 60 days. Three (3) violations within 36 months results in a 120-day day suspension on top of the 60-day suspension. (MCL 257.319b(1)(a)(i) and (b)(i) and (10)(b)(ix))

Under federal distracted driving laws for drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) – which Michigan has adopted – truck drivers and school bus drivers who use a cell phone while driving a commercial vehicle or school bus face a $2,750 fine and other sanctions against their CDLs. (MCL 480.11a(1)(b))

Are tougher laws needed for distracted drivers?

Tougher laws are needed to combat distracted driving. Distracted driving laws have been on the books for decades if not longer in most states. Yet, distraction-related crashes keep increasing. As a car accident lawyer, I would estimate at least 50% of my current cases involve some element of distracted driving.  

Unfortunately, education alone is not enough to change behavior. There needs to be a more effective deterrent.

As a Michigan car accident lawyer, my proposal is that as  the dangers of distracted driving and driving intoxicated are so similar, the laws and penalties for distracted driving should be no less serious than those for drunk driving.

Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to crash and drivers dialing a hand-held cell phone are 12 times more likely. By contrast, drunk drivers with a BAC between .05 and .07 are 6 to 17 times more likely to be in a fatal crash. 

Research has also shown that distracted driving – especially texting while driving – is as dangerous if not more than drunk driving. 

A study from the University of Utah found that “people are as impaired when they drive and talk on a cell phone as they are when they drive intoxicated at the legal blood-alcohol limit.” 

(Source: Virginia Tech Transportation Institute; MADD, Studies on the Effectiveness of .05 BAC, citing a study by the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB; The University of Utah, “Drivers on Cell Phones Are as Bad as Drunks”))

Yet, the punishment for distracted driving is negligible at best when compared to the punishment for drunk driving.

The worst that a distracted driver may face is a “civil infraction” and at most a $200 fine. He or she can probably sign the ticket and mail in the fine and the case is done. 

Meanwhile, an intoxicated driver could be convicted of a misdemeanor, go to jail, be forced to do community service, get 6 points on his or her driver’s license, and have his or her driver’s license suspended for at least 6 months. On top of that, an intoxicated driver will likely have to pay thousands of dollars in attorney fees to defend them in court.

How many states have distracted driving laws?

There are 48 states that ban all drivers from texting while driving. However, there are only 24 states that prohibit hand-held cell phone use by all drivers. The District of Columbia (D.C.), Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban both forms of distracted driving. 

(Sources: Governors Highway Safety Association, “Distracted Driving,” State Laws; Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), “Distracted Driving”)

When did the ban on distracted driving become a law?

Although driver distraction has always been a problem, it was not until the early 2000s that states began enacting distracted driving laws. In 2001, New York banned cell phone use by drivers. In 2007, Washington banned texting. In 2010, Michigan distracted driving laws took effect banning all drivers from texting while driving.

In 2013, Michigan banned truck drivers, school bus drivers, and teen drivers with a Level 1 or Level 2 graduated license from using a cell phone while driving. 

Were you injured by someone who violated the Michigan distracted driving laws? Call Michigan Auto Law first

If you have suffered a personal injury in an accident caused by an at-fault driver who violated the Michigan distracted driving laws and you would like to speak with an experienced attorney about your legal rights to pain and suffering compensation and/or No-Fault benefits, 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 other 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.

Michigan Distracted Driving Laws: What You Need To Know

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