Many people think that distracted driving is a new issue due to cellphones, but it has been around for decades. It first got attention when Chrysler added a portable record player to cars. The problem has worsened with the use of cellphones, however, and studies show that it remains an issue.
Overview of distracted driving
Any activity that takes a driver’s focus off the road for any time length is considered distracted driving. While most state laws focus on cellphone use, distractions can include eating, talking to passengers and putting on makeup. These activities aren’t illegal, but they can increase the risk of car accidents since the driver’s attention is off the road.
Michigan law prohibits drivers from texting while driving and drivers under 18 from using a handheld device, even hands-free. The exceptions are if the driver feels they are in danger and for the reporting of road hazards, criminal acts or medical emergencies.
Distracted driving statistics in Michigan
The Office of Highway Safety and Planning reports that 41% of young adults admit to texting and driving. One report found that 9 out of 10 drivers admit to using smartphones while driving even though they know it is illegal. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that drivers are at a double crash risk when they perform visual phone activities while driving.
Data from the National Safety Council reports that mobile device use while driving causes around 1.6 million crashes annually. In 2019, 2,798 motor vehicle crashes in Michigan occurred from distracted driving, an increase of 48% from 2016. Cellphone use while behind the wheel accounts for 10% of distracted driving vehicle accidents in the state.
There have been recent proposals to increase distracted driving penalties in Michigan. The current penalty is $100 for the first offense and $200 for the second offense. In addition to paying legal penalties, at-fault drivers may be required to cover medical bills and lost wages for the victims of accidents.