Michigan bill to ban driving while texting advances

| 10/28/2009

The topic of the summer in statehouses around the country isn’t losing much steam as we move into fall. A Michigan House panel is the location of the most recent activity to forbid the use of text messaging devices while at the wheel.

Michigan already allows local governments to adopt their own policies. However, there is no statewide ban.

The House Transportation Committee voted to advance a bill that would enact a state law to prohibit drivers from reading, writing or sending text messages. Exceptions would be made for emergencies.

Violations would be a secondary offense – meaning drivers would face $100 fines if they are pulled over for another reason. No points would be added to driver’s licenses.

The bill – HB4394 – now moves to the House floor where a similar effort was approved a year ago, only to stall out in a Senate committee.

The results this time around could turn out more favorably for supporters of a ban on texting while driving.

More than a dozen states have acted this year alone. On Thursday, Nov. 1, New York will become the 15th state to enforce a ban on the practice of operating a motor vehicle while texting. Bans in Illinois, Oregon and New Hampshire are slated to take effect Jan. 1.

Attempts nationwide to curb the practice of using the devices have intensified in recent months. A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has fueled increased interest in efforts to put a stop to use of the technology. Researchers found that drivers are more than 23 times as likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash while texting at the wheel.

The findings have energized lawmakers in numerous states to pursue legislation during their 2010 sessions to adopt texting bans. More efforts are anticipated as Congress could get involved.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Michigan in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.