Bill to be considered to eliminate texting while driving
by MITCH HARVATIN
State legislators are pushing a ban on texting while driving. If the law doesn’t pass, Michigan could lose up to 25 percent of its road funding in the near future.
Statistics aren’t clear on exactly how many accidents are caused by using cell phones to talk, text or e-mail while driving, because in most accidents the individuals involved aren’t forthcoming in telling the police officer that they were using a cell phone while driving. Police cannot go through the driver’s phone without a search warrant.
In a 2008 MSNBC report, six states have bans on talking, texting, e-mailing or gaming on an electronic device while driving. Those states include Alaska, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Washington and District of Columbia. Sixteen other states are considering passing this ban, and Michigan is one of them.
According to Lawyers.com, “In Michigan, Senator ‘Buzz’ Thomas (D-Detroit) introduced Senate Bill 783, which would stick drivers caught reading, typing or sending text messages on a cell phone or electronic wireless device, such as a BlackBerry, with a $100 fine. The punishment would be a secondary offense, meaning police could only ticket drivers for violating the rule if they were pulled over for another reason. The bill was last referred to the Committee of Energy Policy and Public Utilities.” The Rockford Squire placed a call into Sen. Thomas’ office, but has not heard back from him yet.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigated a Los Angeles Metrolink commuter train crash last fall, which left 25 people dead and 128 people injured. Published reports conclude that the train engineer was texting. That train ran a stop signal and crashed into an oncoming freight engine.
Michigan State Police and local law enforcement agencies cannot write a ticket for texting while driving, but can issue a ticket for careless driving, which would include the driver weaving in and out of their lane or speeding.
Research has shown that driving response while texting is as bad as while driving drunk. Lieutenant Chris McIntire, Post Commander for the Michigan State Police in Rockford, agreed. He feels very confident that this bill will be passed in the near future. “My troopers know it and I express it all the time. I take an absolute zero tolerance on texting while driving, and we can enforce different things they’re doing while they are texting while driving, such as accidents, careless driving—whatever texting is causing them to do that, which violates the Michigan Vehicle Code, they will be ticketed. There is no warning, this is their warning. Right now is their warning when they are reading this in the paper. They will get a ticket,” said McIntire.