By DAVID GREEN
When July 1 arrives next week, many Michigan drivers will need to make a change in their behavior behind the wheel.
Michigan will soon become the 27th state in the union to ban sending and receiving text messages while driving. Legislators passed the measure in April by a 74-33 vote.
As a primary offense, police officers will be able to ticket a driver for that offense alone if seen entering data into a two-way electronic communication device while driving. The civil infraction brings a $100 fine on the first offense and subsequent offenses will cost $200 each. The infractions would not assess points on a driver’s record.
There are four exceptions in the law. Drivers will not be ticketed for:
• Using dashboard mounted GPS devices;
• Dialing and talking on a phone;
• Texting while pulled over on the side of a road;
• Texting to report drunk driving or some other crime.
Michigan legislators favoring the ban relied on research from a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study that found that texting to be the riskiest use of an electronic device while driving. The study found that drivers sending or reading a text may have their eyes off the road for more than four seconds in a six-second period. Some researchers claim the practice is as dangerous as driving while drunk.
The likelihood for an accident was found to be 23 times more likely than with a driver not distracting by an electronic device.
Michigan State Police legislative liaison Matt Bolger stated that distracted driving is reckless driving. If a texting motorist tells a police officer he was just punching in numbers to make a call, Bolger said, he will face a choice of accepting a texting ticket that carries no points or a careless driving charge with four points.
Morenci Chief of Police Larry Weeks noted the law is repetitive in that respect because a law are already on the books in regard to careless operation. The new law only give drivers the advantage of not receiving points on their record.
Weeks’ concern is that drivers may misconstrue the law to think it includes other activities that distract a driver from safe operation, such as reading, putting on makeup and eating. Unsafe behavior other than texting will still result in a careless operation infraction.
OHIO—A similar bill recently cleared the Ohio House of Representatives and the Senate is expected to consider the ban after its summer break.