Michigan House approves ban on texting while driving

| 12/15/2008

A bill halfway through the Michigan statehouse is intended to limit driver distractions.

The House voted 68-32 to advance a bill to the Senate that would prohibit drivers from reading, writing or sending text messages. Exceptions would be made for emergencies.

With the Legislature set to adjourn by the end of the month, HB5117 is now in the Senate Transportation Committee for consideration.

Efforts to curb the practice of using electronic wireless devices, such as a BlackBerry-type device, while driving have picked up steam across the country following the release of a Nationwide Mutual Insurance survey that found one in five drivers texting while driving. Nearly three-quarters of drivers use cell phones.

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

While the texting ban advanced from the House, a bill that sought to prohibit drivers from talking on hand-held cell phones failed to gain passage in the chamber. Sponsored by Rep. Gino Polidori, D-Dearborn, the measure – HB4982 – would have permitted talking on a phone equipped with a “hands-free” accessory.

California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Washington are the only states that ban all drivers from using hand-held phones. The New Jersey and Washington state laws also prohibit text messaging. Alaska and Minnesota recently approved their own bans on text messaging.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Michigan in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor