In 2019, 3,142 Americans died from crashes that law enforcement linked to distracted driving. What’s even worse is that a 2018 study conducted by the AAA Foundation discovered that texting while driving doubles the chances of a car crash happening. Because of the countless scary statistics out there related to distracted driving, many states are enacting texting and phone ban laws. So if you’ve ever wondered: is it illegal to talk on the phone while driving in Michigan? Lipton Law attorneys can answer that question and more.
Three Main Types of Distracted Driving
There are three types of distracted driving. They are:
- Visual: Looking away from the road
- Manual: Taking your hands off the steering wheel
- Cognitive: Zoning out and not focusing on the road
Texting while driving is incredibly dangerous because it involves all of these types of distractions.
Common Distractions While Driving
Texting isn’t the only dangerous distraction that drivers can engage in. Other activities that can lead to car accidents include:
- Checking social media
- Talking on the phone
- Watching videos
- Eating, drinking, or smoking
- Searching for various items in the car
- Reaching for various items in the car
- Looking at something on the side of the road as you drive past it
- Reading books, magazines, online articles, etc.
- Looking at maps
- Listening to loud music
- Dancing to loud music
How to Avoid Distractions While Driving
All drivers owe each other a certain duty of care on the roads. In other words, you owe your fellow drivers a sense of responsibility and safety on the roads, and they owe you the same. In order to be the safest and most responsible driver you can be, it’s important to avoid distractions as much as possible. If you do any of the things listed below, you could save a life.
- Put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” while you’re driving
- Store your phone in the glove box if you’re still tempted to look at it while driving
- Don’t eat, drink, or smoke while driving
- Avoid reading anything, even maps, while driving
- Avoid driving while you’re angry or upset because strong emotions can impact the way you drive
- Don’t use earbuds to listen to music while driving
- Listen to music at a reasonable volume in your car. You should be able to hear things, like car honking, while you’re listening to music
- If you need to call or text someone, pull over and do so
- Don’t drive with pets or kids on your lap
- If you have kids in the back seat and they’re asking for something, pull over before giving them what they need
- Try not to zone out while driving, even if you’re on a long stretch of road that seems to have no one else on it
- Ask a passenger to do things like take calls and texts for you, adjust the music, and use the GPS
United States Cell Phone Restriction While Driving
So, is it illegal to talk on the phone while driving? The answer really depends on the state you live in. As of 2021, there is no nationwide law that bans cell phone use while driving. Individual states have the freedom to enforce these rules if they desire. 48 states and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving according to the IIHS. Missouri has a partial ban on texting for all drivers under 21, and Montana is the only state that doesn’t have a texting while driving ban.
24 states and the District of Columbia have hand-held phone bans. This means that drivers can’t do anything on their phones that requires them to hold the device in their hands. This can include texting, talking on the phone, changing the music, looking at the GPS, scrolling on social media, and more. New York was the first state to enact a hand-held phone ban while driving in 2001.
Is There a Hands Free Law in Michigan?
Michigan is one of 26 states that doesn’t have a hands free law.
Is It Illegal to Text and Drive in Michigan?
As of July 1, 2010, Michigan is one of the 48 states that bans texting while driving. Police will charge drivers $100 for a first offense and $200 for all other offenses. The Michigan law specifically states:
“A person shall not read, manually type, or send a text message on a wireless 2-way communication device that is located in the person’s hand or in the person’s lap, including a wireless telephone used in cellular telephone service or personal communication service, while operating a motor vehicle that is moving on a highway or street in this state.”
So the following phone activities are completely legal while driving in Michigan according to this law:
- Texting or reading texts while driving as long as the phone isn’t in your lap or your hand. This means your phone could be on your dashboard or on a phone mount
- Typing out or reading a social media post while your phone is on a mount
- Typing or reading emails while your phone is on a mount
- Checking your calendar or any other app while your phone is on a mount
- Playing games on your phone while your phone is on a mount
- Watching Youtube or TikTok videos while your phone is on a mount
But just because these phone activities are technically legal while driving in Michigan, that doesn’t mean you should engage in them. These exceptions to the texting law just prove that it’s not going to prevent all distracted driving. For example, if someone gets pulled over for doing something on their phone, they could just say they were doing any of the previously mentioned exceptions to the law.
Exceptions to the Michigan Texting Law
The previously listed exceptions to the Michigan texting law are merely loopholes to the “phone in the hand or lap” verbiage. The exceptions that are actually included in the law say that drivers can use their phones to:
- Report a crash, a medical emergency, or a major road hazard
- Call or text for help if they’re in imminent danger
- Report someone if they’re about to commit a crime of if someone has already committed a crime
- Using phone GPS as long as the phone is mounted in the car somewhere
Is It Illegal to Talk on the Phone While Driving in Michigan?
Most of us know about the texting while driving ban in most states. But is it illegal to talk on the phone while driving? The answer varies state to state. In Michigan specifically, it’s completely legal to talk on the phone while driving for most drivers. Drivers under the age of 17 (level 1 or level 2 graduated driver’s license) can’t talk on the phone while driving unless they do so hands free, like through a car’s voice-operated system. Additionally, commercial vehicle and school bus drivers aren’t allowed to talk on the phone while driving unless they do so hands-free.
The cell phone ban for young drivers described above is called Kelsey’s Law in Michigan. State legislators enacted the law on March 28, 2013, in memory of 17-year-old Kelsey Dawn Raffaele who died in a car crash in January 2010. A few months after her crash, her family learned that she had been talking to a friend on the phone. The friend said her last words were: “I’m going to crash.” Law enforcement then assumed that distracted driving was the main cause of Kelsey’s crash.
Since her tragic death, Kelsey’s mother – Bonnie Raffaele – has fought for the enactment of Kelsey’s Law while also challenging high school students to partake in the KDR Challenge. The challenge is named after Kelsey’s initials and stands for Kids Driving Responsibly. By partaking in the challenge, kids under the age of 17 must avoid talking on the phone while driving.
Cell Phone Ban Exceptions in Michigan
Cell phone ban exceptions for commercial drivers, school bus drivers, and drivers under the age of 17 include:
- Reporting a crash, a medical emergency, or a major road hazard
- Calling or texting for help if a driver believes they’re in imminent danger
- Reporting someone if they’re about to commit a crime of if someone has already committed a crime
HB 4277 For Distracted Driving in Michigan
Some legislators are fighting for stricter distracted driving laws in Michigan. One of the pending bills in 2021 is House Bill 4277. If passed, the law would completely ban people from using their phones in the car with a few exceptions.
Exceptions to HB 4277
If HB 4277 becomes a law, drivers could only use their phones in these instances:
- Calling 911 for an emergency
- Using GPS only if they’re not typing in an address while driving
- Typing in a phone number to make a hands-free call
- Using hands-free or voice-activated software to call someone
Additionally, these strict rules wouldn’t apply to first responders.
No Exceptions to HB 4277
If HB 4277 becomes a law, these phone activities would be strictly prohibited:
- Using headphones or earbuds while driving
- Scrolling, posting, or reading on any social media app
- Watching videos
- Recording videos
Call Lipton Law Today
At Lipton Law, our first priority is you. Unfortunately, all of the laws in the world can’t completely stop distracted driving. That’s why our Michigan car accident injury attorneys not only want to answer the question: is it illegal to talk on the phone while driving? But to also represent the loved ones who have truly suffered the consequences from distracted driving. Call us today at 248-557-1688 for a free consultation.