The Michigan Texting While Driving Policy

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From 2005 to 2009, the number of motor vehicle, crash-related injuries due to cellphone distractions in the United States went from 10,000 to 24,000 respectively. These cellphone distractions are described as cellphone activities one performs that can distract them from driving, with the most common distraction being texting. On July 1, 2010, the state of Michigan addressed this growing issue of cellphone distractions with an update to the motor vehicle code. The update prohibits texting while driving, with an initial fine of $100 and a subsequent fine of $200, except when someone is stopped at a stoplight or side of the road or is reporting a crime or emergency. This paper will describe why texting while driving is a public health problem, considering the views of politicians, businesses, police, and citizens, and investigate how this policy impacted health throughout Michigan.

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Texting while driving has become a large public health problem in the United States, causing 1,000 fatalities and 24,000 injuries in 2009. It has been problematic enough to give rise to some form of texting while driving ban in every state discluding Montana, with Michigan being the 31st state to implement one. This problem, while posing a great threat, is one that can be prevented. If cell phones are not used while one is driving, there will be no accidents caused by these cellphone distractions. This action is hard to enforce, and the chances of one not using their phone at some point while driving are very low. Preventing fatalities and injuries due to texting while driving is even harder with society growing more dependent on cellphones to perform daily functions like communicating with others and finding directions. The dependence on technology further illustrates why texting while driving is a public health problem, since one person not using their cellphone will not lower injuries or fatalities from texting and driving, as that does not impact other people texting and driving. It takes collective efforts from all people not using their phones while driving to truly prevent fatalities and injuries caused by texting and driving.

While the problem of texting and driving is a major public health concern, there are many different groups heavily impacted by this policy. The final bill passed through the Michigan Senate with a vote of 74-33, which fully implemented the texting while driving ban previously described. Both democrats and republicans had views concerning this policy, some opposed and some supporting. Flint democrat, Representative Lee Gonzales, was one supporting the ban, stating that “It’s going to be a solid implementation and it’s going to be fair”. He also spoke on texting and driving in general, saying that “Texting while driving is a dangerous habit that too many drivers take part in”. Gonzales was not the only person in support of the ban, as Ann Arbor democrat, Senator Liz Brater also expressed her support due to countless studies all showing the dangerous effects of texting while driving. Gonzales and Brater were only two of the many supporters across Michigan that believed the ban was necessary to reduce the danger posed by texting and driving.

Despite all of the support the ban received for how it might help limit the dangers of texting and driving, there were still concerns about its enforcement. The policy leaves police officers and state troopers to determine when someone is looking at a cellphone, and not simply looking for a coin that fell out of their pocket. Brighton republican, Representative Bill Rogers described two of these awkward scenarios, with the first being “I pick up my coffee cup doing 70 mph on the freeway. Can you tell if that’s a coffee cup or a phone?

29 April 2022

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