Distracted driving bill passes Michigan House

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Parker Moser

Due to a high number of distracted drivers, a new law that broadens restriction on cell phone use has passed the Michigan house

A bill expanding restrictions on cellphone use while driving passed the Michigan House on January 25, 2021.
“Michigan’s roads are still far too dangerous,” Birmingham democrat and bill sponsor Mari Manoogian said according to The Detroit News.
The current law bans texting while driving, but it does not restrict cell phone use further than that, meaning the use of social media, and even streaming services like Netflix while behind the wheel are completely legal right now. Under the new legislation, all use of phones while driving will be prohibited, except for emergencies.
Many RHS students see this bill as being especially important for teen drivers.
“I think it’ll make teen driving more safe because there are apps like Snapchat and Instagram. Those alerts go off constantly and that can definitely be annoying or distracting someone’s driving,” junior Kate Keathly said.
According to Pew Research, 47 percent of teens between 16 and 17 have talked on their phones while driving, and 26 percent have texted while driving.
Although the bill greatly reduces the ways drivers can be distracted, it doesn’t ban the use of cell phones entirely. The bill adds an exemption that states phones can be used as long as they are connected to a display that is permanently installed in the car, like a touch screen radio. This means that even if you are driving, you can still talk and text as long as it is done through the car itself.
“I’d probably limit it a bit more; no touchscreen in the car… because it’s just the same thing just on a bigger screen,” junior Kaden Osborne said.
By sending or reading a text, a driver’s eyes could be off the road for five seconds, and although it seems short, at 55mph that would be the equivalent of driving an entire football field blind according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“You don’t need to go on your phone really while you’re driving, it’s how accidents happen,” Osborne said.
Ten percent of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in passenger vehicles were distracted according to the NHTSA. Although the bill is meant to limit distractions, some say it would be hard to enforce due to some of the exemptions according to legislature.mi.gov. Although most criticism is about specific aspects of the bill, some oppose the concept outright, like representative John Reilly of Oakland Township according to Autobody News.
“We have a love affair with safety,” Reilly said to Autobody News. “Liberty has an element of risk. We can’t have both… My question would be: When does this end?”
according to Click on Detroit, Reilly stated that he believes this bill is “the big hand of government”. Reilly was one of 26 house members who voted against the bill, which passed the house 75-26. He also stated that this bill was “chipping away at the foundation of liberty in this country,” according to Click on Detroit. However, representative Joe Bellino disagreed with his stance.
“I don’t feel we’re taking away personal liberties by telling people you can’t have your phone in your hand,” Bellino said in the same article.
Others support the bill due to their own experiences, such as representative Roger Hauck of Union Township who’s mother-in-law was killed by a distracted driver.
“My mother-in-law’s liberties were taken away from her by somebody texting on a phone,” Hauck said in the Detroit News.
Although the bill has passed the house with a nearly 3 to 1 majority vote, it still has to pass the senate and be approved by governor Gretchen Whitmer in order to officially become a law. Until then, cell phone use while driving is still widely unregulated outside of texting behind the wheel.