Michigan police plan five-day effort to catch distracted drivers

The “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign will take place around the state from Thursday through Monday
The "U Drive. U Text. U Pay." effort is organized by the National Highway Traffic Safety...
The "U Drive. U Text. U Pay." effort is organized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.(source: Michigan State Police)
Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 12:27 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Police agencies across Michigan are taking part in a five-day effort to crack down on distracted driving this week.

As part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, law enforcement officers are increasing patrols as part of the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” effort organized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The increased patrols in Michigan are scheduled for Thursday through Monday.

Michigan State Police say there were more than 18,000 crashes statewide caused by distracted driving in 2019, resulting in 70 deaths. Nationally, 3,142 people in distracted driving crashes in 2019, including 566 pedestrians and bicyclists.

Michigan law prohibits drivers from reading, manually typing or sending text messages and other written communication while behind the wheel. The only exceptions allow for reporting crimes or emergencies.

“Any activity that takes your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel is extremely reckless and puts you and others on the road at risk,” said Michael L. Prince, Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning director. “Whether it’s texting, eating, drinking, using GPS or talking to other passengers, it’s all dangerous while driving.”

Separately, police agencies in Kent and Wayne counties are partnering with Michigan State University researchers this month to evaluate methods of enforcing distracted driving laws. A three-week study continues in those counties until April 26.

Officers are using dynamic message boards to alert drivers that distracted driving enforcement is under way. Researchers are studying whether using the message boards leads to a measurable change in drivers’ behavior.

“This project aims to assess the effectiveness of high-visibility enforcement, in combination with different types of messages that discourage cell phone use by drivers,” said Dr. Peter Savolainen, MSU Foundation Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

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