distracted driving

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New Plan Would Expand List Of Banned Activities For Michigan Drivers

February 19, 2019 - 12:26 pm

LANSING (WWJ) - New legislation has been introduced that would change the distracted driving law in Michigan.

While current law bans texting while driving, Northern Michigan Republican Rep. Triston Cole is sponsoring a bill that would add an expanded list of banned activities for drivers.

The goal, he said, is to deter people from using their phones at all while driving, while increasing the tools that law enforcement can use to address the issue.

"Specifically, this would address, you know, somebody shopping on EBay, or checking in on their Instagram account, or scrolling through Facebook -- that kinda thing," Cole told WWJ Newsradio 950's Dan Jenkins. "Right now that is not specific."

Cole’s plan would also limit new drivers under the age of 18 from talking or listening to a cell phone call while driving, except in the case of an emergency.  "Texting is illegal right now, but there's a multitude of other things that you can do on a handheld advice that is still going on on the highways today," he said. 

Meanwhile, another bill, introduced by GOP Rep. Jason Sheppard of Monroe County, would increase fines for drivers who text while driving from $100 to $250 for first time violators. The penalty would increase from $200 to $500 for a second violation.  

Cole acknowledged that this is an issue already being discussed by state Democrats, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who last week called for the legislature to join 16 other states in adopting hands-free driving laws, which ban any use of a mobile devices while driving, with few exceptions.

"The vast majority of things we deal with here in the legislature are of a nonpartisan nature," Cole said. "I always use the analogy if we have 1,000 votes, 980 of them are wildly bipartisan, ten of them are only marginally bipartisan, and ten of them we fight about. And I would put this  solidity bipartisan, or rather nonpartisan set of issues that we work on."

Both Cole's and Sheppard's bills may be considered by the Transportation Committee, where Cole said some of the fine points would need to be worked out. 

"Some of the training; and how do you identify this," he said. "...Again, this is just another tool and we'll flesh out a lot of those details through the committee process."