Michigan bill would outlaw text messaging at the wheel

| 9/24/2007

If a Michigan state lawmaker gets his way, it would be a no-no to text message while driving in the state.

Sen. Buzz Thomas, D-Detroit, has offered a bill that would punish drivers who are caught reading, typing or sending text messages on an electronic wireless device, such as a Blackberry. It also would ban playing video games while driving.

Attempts to curb the practice of using electronic wireless devices while driving have picked up steam following the release of a Nationwide Mutual Insurance survey that found one in five drivers texting while driving. That number nearly doubles for drivers aged 18 to 27.

“There is no question that texting while driving is one of the most dangerous things you can do while driving. There is no need to text or play games while driving, especially when it endangers the life of every other driver on the road,” Thomas said in a written statement.

Violators would face $100 fines. It would be a secondary offense, which means police could only ticket drivers for violating the rule if they were pulled over for another reason.

Exceptions would be made for emergencies or if the vehicle is stopped.

If approved, Michigan would become only the second state to outlaw text messaging while driving. Washington passed a bill this spring after numerous wrecks involving drivers who had been text-messaging at the time. The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2008.

Efforts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey also would ban texting.

The Michigan bill – SB783 – is in the Senate Energy Policy and Public Utilities Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Michigan in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor