Michigan acknowledges the problem of distracted driving

According to Hand-free Info's website, 96 percent of Michigan drivers acknowledge that texting and driving is dangerous behavior; however, approximately 17 percent of these motorists say that they read texts while behind the wheel. Unfortunately, the desire to be connected often seems to outweigh traffic safety.

Distraction.gov reports that in 2010, more than 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving crashes, which included texting, talking on a cellphone, eating and other similar activities. According to the Department of Transportation, the problem appears to be increasing with the exponential growth of advanced cellphone technology.

Michigan's law

To combat the issue, various states have introduced new driving laws. Except for novice drivers, there is no comprehensive ban on cellphone use while driving in Michigan. However, the state allows localities to determine their own cellphone driving laws. For example, Detroit prohibits handheld cellphone use while driving.

However, all Michigan drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. Under Michigan's anti-texting law, a driver cannot read, type or transmit a text message on a wireless communication device that is located in the person's hand or lap while operating a motor vehicle that is moving on a highway or street in Michigan.

Fines for texting are $100 for a first offense and $200 for subsequent offenses. Michigan's texting law is considered a "primary" law, which means that an officer can pull a motorist over for the offense without having to witness some other violation (for example, speeding).

The law prohibits texting while driving when the motorist is "operating a motor vehicle that is moving on a highway or street." Unfortunately, the wording is somewhat ambiguous. Does this mean it is legal for a motorist to text while paused at a stoplight? While "operating" does include being stopped at a traffic light, "moving" is also a required element of the violation.

In this situation, an officer could argue that a motorist should still devote full attention to traffic. If the stoplight changes from red to green, it is the driver's responsibility to pay attention and move with traffic. While it may not be as dangerous as texting while actually in motion, texting at a stoplight takes attention away from the primary responsibility of driving. Furthermore, a driver who is distracted by his or her cellphone and commits a traffic violation can be charged with reckless or careless driving.

With or without a specific law, motorists should consider road safety before reaching for their cellphone. If you have been injured by a negligent or distracted driver, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney today. An experienced attorney will know how to investigate and preserve the evidence of a negligent or distracted driver's use of a cellphone at the time of the accident.