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AAA backs bill to toughen Michigan’s distracted driving laws

Three bills that would ban drivers from touching electronic devices passed a House committee
Fort Jackson crackdowns on cell-phone use while driving, victims say system is broken
Fort Jackson crackdowns on cell-phone use while driving, victims say system is broken(Emily Wakeman)
Published: May. 4, 2021 at 1:48 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - The national Auto Club Group is throwing its weight behind a package of bills to strengthen Michigan’s distracted driving laws by prohibiting the use of handheld devices behind the wheel.

House Bills 4277 to 4279 passed the House Judiciary Committee and advance to the full House for consideration. The legislation specifically bans drivers from holding phones for calls or using social media, video streaming and many other cell phone apps behind the wheel.

Michigan’s distracted driving law currently addresses only text messaging behind the wheel. If the bills are enacted, drivers could use only hands-free or voice activated cell phone functions.

“Distracted driving remains a growing traffic safety problem here in Michigan. Our research shows that education and legislation are key factors in changing driving behavior,” said Tiffany Hauser, director of government relations for AAA-The Auto Club Group.

Michigan saw 71 people killed in 64 deadly crashes involving distracted drivers in 2019.

The AAA says vehicles travel the length of a football field in five seconds, which is like driving blindfolded if drivers take their eyes off the road to read an email or text message. Mental distraction from changing the radio station or dialing a phone number can last for up to 27 seconds.

“Today, with the advancements of in-vehicle technology and the use of cellphones in our daily lives, drivers have the potential to be more distracted than ever before,” said Adrienne Woodland, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Distracted driving legislation needs to be in line with current trends and these bills are a step in the right direction.”

If the bills pass the Michigan House, they will go the State Senate for consideration. They would have to pass there before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could decide whether to sign them into law.

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