StopDistractions.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending distracted driving, is urging the state of Michigan to adopt legislation that would make it illegal for drivers under the age of 18 to use a mobile device with the exception of emergency use. The bill already has passed the Michigan House of Representatives.
The organization also wants the state to follow 21 other states in adopting hands-free legislation for all ages. A press conference was conducted today by StopDistractions.org to discuss the issue, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and James Craig, Detroit chief of police, spoke in support of such a law at the event.
“Michigan should be a leader in all things mobility-related,” says Whitmer, including policy. She applauded the bipartisan support the bill received in the house and emphasized that there is work still to do.
Jennifer Smith, leader of StopDistractions.org, says a hands-free law for drivers of all ages would make it easy to follow and enforce and decrease crashes. Law enforcement would not require additional training.
“We have seen a reduction in crashes and fatalities in the states that have already adopted hands-free legislation,” says Smith. “I am encouraged by the discussion and action around this issue in the state of Michigan and hope it will soon join that group.”
House Bill 4181, sponsored by Rep. Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham), passed the Michigan House on Dec. 11 and is awaiting review by the state Senate. Manoogian also spoke at the press conference.
“Distracted driving is a serious threat to Michigan drivers,” Manoogian wrote in December. “According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, there are 20,000+ distracted driving accidents in Michigan each year. These numbers are rising each year as cellphone use behind the wheel becomes more common.”
Nearly 3,000 crashes in Michigan in 2018 involved admitted cellphone use.
“In July of 2018, Georgia enacted hands-free legislation,” says Smith. “After the law was enacted, a study of between 20,000-25,000 drivers found that the passage of a hands-free law was responsible for reducing distracted driving rates by 20 percent. In the first 18 months of the law, preliminary estimates show 10 percent lower fatalities. Georgia’s results were huge in leading to five other states enacting similar hands-free legislation in 2019: Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, and Tennessee.”