January 29, 2021
Reading a text or answering a call when you’re behind the wheel may be tempting. However, motorists risk far more than a traffic ticket with a hefty fine when you use a cell phone while driving. In fact, the likelihood of having or causing an accident is 83% higher when drivers engage with their phones. Therefore, by simply picking up a phone, individuals are risking themselves (and others) to serious injuries or even death.
Approximately 3,000 people die in motor vehicle accidents involving a distracted driver every year in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A total of 2,798 car accidents reported in Michigan last year were caused by a motor vehicle driver, a pedestrian, or a bicyclist using a cell phone. Unfortunately, traffic safety experts believe that the actual number of cell-phone related car accidents is much higher than statistics depict – especially since police officers are not always able to determine or prove that a driver was on a phone when the accident took place. Furthermore, drivers typically do not admit to officers that they were using a cell phone when reporting an accident.
We care about you and your loved ones at Elia & Ponto PLLC., so we’ve put together this Michigan Cell Phone Law Guide to better protect drivers on the road.
What is the Definition of “Distracted driving”?
Distracted driving is extremely dangerous and may put a driver, along with passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians at risk of being hurt or even killed.
There are three major categories of distracted driving:
- Cognitive – a driver takes their mind off driving
- Manual – a driver takes their hands off the wheel
- Visual – a driver takes their eyes off the road
A driver combines all three of these distractions when using a cell phone while driving.
What Are the Cell Phone Laws for Talking and Texting in Michigan?
Is Talking on a Cell Phone While Driving Legal in Michigan?
Most adult drivers in Michigan with licenses above Level 2 are currently permitted to use cell phones to speak while driving. Although the driver is not allowed to text, they are able to hold a cell phone in their hand as well as utilize any voice-operated system. These systems allow drivers to talk hands-free while driving a vehicle. Although it is legal to hold a cell phone in your hand, it can prose various risks. For example, if both hands are not on the wheel, it may be difficult to react quickly to a traffic hazard – especially if the driver’s attention is primarily on the phone.
Some municipalities have their own local laws prohibiting the use of handheld cell phones. This means that if a driver engages with their cell phone then they are at risk of causing an accident and receiving a ticket.
Is It Against the Law to Text While Driving?
Drivers are prohibited from reading, manually typing, and/or sending text messages under Michigan law. Texting requires the use of eyes, hands, and mind – so, therefore, drivers cannot safely drive while texting. The likelihood of causing an accident and severely injuring passengers and other drivers is significantly increased.
What Consequences Do Michigan Drivers Face for Texting?
Under Michigan legislation, those who violate cell phone laws for the first time may be fined $100. Subsequent offenders may, however, be subject to a fine of $200. No points are issued on a driver’s record for violating the law at that time.
Depending on the circumstances and severity of the accident, drivers could also be accused of more serious offenses. Such offenses may include…
- Improper lane use
- Reckless driving
Drivers should understand that the consequences in these instances are much more severe.
Distracted Driving Caused by Applications – Spotify, Apple Music, Maps, and More
Using certain auto software applications via cell phone is subject to the same rules and regulations as other kinds of distracted driving. This includes popular navigation systems, such as Google Maps or Apple Maps, which require the user to enter the destination address manually.
Additional music/entertainment applications, including Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, XM Radio, or Podcasts can also put drivers in danger if they become distracted. Similar to texting, such distractions may result in a fine.
Special Circumstances and Rare Exceptions for Michigan Cell Phone Laws
Michigan Cell Phone Laws for Teen Drivers
The Michigan Graduated Driver Licensing Program prohibits Level 1 and Level 2 license holders from using cell phones in any circumstance while driving in order to protect novice and young drivers along with those with whom they share the road. This strict criteria also referred to as Kelsey’s Law, was designed to prevent teens from engaging in distracting activities while behind the wheel.
School Bus Drivers and Commercial Truck Drivers Cell Phone Laws
Both commercial truck drivers and school bus operators are prohibited from utilizing any handheld cell phone devices in Michigan. Hefty fines and penalties apply not only to the actual commercial driver but also to their employer.
The Michigan cell phone law only prohibits drivers from sending or receiving messages by manually texting or otherwise handling their cellular devices. The law, however, allows drivers to use hands-free texting programs such as talk-to-text or other means of voice-operated systems.
Emergency-Related Exceptions to Michigan Cell Phone Laws
There are few exceptions for certain urgent circumstances regarding Michigan cell phone laws. Such circumstances include reporting a…
- Dangerous road hazard(s)
- Medical emergencies
Drivers are also permitted to utilize their cell phones when their personal safety is jeopardized.
Are Hands-Free Cell Phone Systems a Safer Alternative?
Unfortunately, no, hands-free systems are not necessarily a safer alternative. While they do allow drives to communicate with both their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, using a hands-free device still requires multi-tasking which still proses distractions. Therefore, utilizing voice commands while driving is equally as distracting and dangerous as manual calling and texting.
Michigan Cell Phone Driving Laws Varying on Municipalities
Local ordinances prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving within a specific jurisdiction have been enacted by some municipalities. Typically, those municipalities are required to post notices at their boundaries however that is not always the case. For that reason, we strongly urge drivers to avoid using hand-held cell phones while driving in any municipality unless an emergency arises.
Injured from a Cell Phone-Related Car Accident in Michigan?
Contact a car accident lawyer at Elia & Ponto PLLC. today for a free consultation. A Michigan car accident lawyer is available 24/7! Our team is available to answer any questions or concerns you or your loved ones may have regarding cell-phone related car accidents, Michigan auto laws, and more!