Michigan House of Representatives Votes 68-32 to Ban Texting While Driving

Alright, this is somewhat of an old story, but I really wanted to do a post on it, and I got caught up with exams last week:

On December 4th, the Michigan House of Representatives voted on House Bill 5117, A bill to amend 1949 PA 300, entitled “Michigan vehicle code,” (MCL 257.1 to 257.923) by adding section 602b.

The bill was introduced by Steve Bieda (D-Macomb).  Here’s the original version of the bill:

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:

SEC. 602B. (1) A PERSON SHALL NOT READ, 1 WRITE, OR SEND A TEXT

2 MESSAGE ON A WIRELESS 2-WAY COMMUNICATION DEVICE, INCLUDING A RADIO

3 TELEPHONE USED IN CELLULAR TELEPHONE SERVICE OR PERSONAL

4 COMMUNICATION SERVICE, WHILE OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE ON A HIGHWAY

5 OR STREET IN THIS STATE.

6 (2) A PERSON WHO VIOLATES THIS SECTION IS RESPONSIBLE FOR A

7 CIVIL INFRACTION.

I like this version of the bill.  It’s quick, and to the point.  Frankly, I think the House butchered this bill (although they did add a couple good clauses).

Here’s the version that was passed by the House (along with my commentary):

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:

SEC. 602B. (1) A PERSON SHALL NOT READ, 1 WRITE, OR SEND A TEXT

2 MESSAGE ON A WIRELESS 2-WAY COMMUNICATION DEVICE THAT IS LOCATED IN

3 THE PERSON’S HAND OR IN THE PERSON’S LAP, INCLUDING A WIRELESS

4 TELEPHONE USED IN CELLULAR TELEPHONE SERVICE OR PERSONAL

5 COMMUNICATION SERVICE, WHILE OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE THAT IS

6 MOVING ON A HIGHWAY OR STREET IN THIS STATE. AS USED IN THIS

7 SUBSECTION, A WIRELESS 2-WAY COMMUNICATION DEVICE DOES NOT INCLUDE

8 A GLOBAL POSITIONING OR NAVIGATION SYSTEM THAT IS AFFIXED TO THE

9 MOTOR VEHICLE.

I will say that lines 6b-9 were a good addition.

(2) SUBSECTION (1) DOES NOT APPLY 1 TO AN INDIVIDUAL WHO IS

2 USING A DEVICE DESCRIBED IN SUBSECTION (1) TO DO ANY OF THE

3 FOLLOWING:

4 (A) REPORT A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT, MEDICAL EMERGENCY, OR SERIOUS

5 ROAD HAZARD.

6 (B) REPORT A SITUATION IN WHICH THE PERSON BELIEVES HIS OR HER

7 PERSONAL SAFETY IS IN JEOPARDY.

8 (C) REPORT OR AVERT THE PERPETRATION OR POTENTIAL PERPETRATION

9 OF A CRIMINAL ACT AGAINST THE INDIVIDUAL OR ANOTHER PERSON.

10 (D) CARRY OUT OFFICIAL DUTIES AS A POLICE OFFICER, LAW

11 ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL, MEMBER OF A PAID OR VOLUNTEER FIRE

12 DEPARTMENT, OR OPERATOR OF AN EMERGENCY VEHICLE.

Again, another good provision.

13 (3) ENFORCEMENT OF THIS SECTION BY STATE OR LOCAL LAW

14 ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES SHALL BE ACCOMPLISHED ONLY AS A SECONDARY

15 ACTION WHEN THE OPERATOR OF A MOTOR VEHICLE HAS BEEN DETAINED FOR A

16 SUSPECTED VIOLATION OF ANOTHER SECTION OF THIS ACT.

Here’s where they really butchered it in my opinion.  Making this a secondary offense means that in order to give somebody a ticket for texting, they have to have been pulled over for something else.  I have 2 problems with this: 1) It gives cops a motive to pull somebody over for something that they normally wouldn’t pull somebody over for, so that they can give them a ticket for texting; 2) It should be a primary offense.  While driving to work on Southfield Freeway (M-39) I’ve had several encounters with teenage drivers (mostly girls) texting and coming into my lane.  I did have a guy do the same thing the other day, except that was on Fort Street (M-85), but it was in the 35 MPH area, so it wasn’t quite as dangerous.  How permanent this will be is up for debate.  Originally, Michigan’s Click It or Ticket seat belt law was a secondary offense, but that changed pretty quickly.

17 (4) AN INDIVIDUAL WHO VIOLATES THIS SECTION IS RESPONSIBLE FOR

18 A CIVIL INFRACTION.

Same as the original bill.

19 (5) IF A LOCAL UNIT OF GOVERNMENT ADOPTS AN ORDINANCE

20 SUBSTANTIALLY SIMILAR TO THIS SECTION, THE ORDINANCE SHALL INCLUDE

21 THE SECONDARY ENFORCEMENT PROVISION IN SUBSECTION (3).

Again, another butchering happened here.  Not only do I disagree with the basic premise of subsection (3), but I disagree with subsection (5) based on the fact that it’s the state government sticking its nose into the business of local municipalities.  If I city wants to make  it a primary offense, good for them.  If they want to keep it a secondary offense, that’s fine too (although I disagree with that decision, they’d have that right).  But to take away municipalities’ rights to make this a primary offense is just wrong.

22 (6) POINTS SHALL NOT BE ASSESSED UNDER SECTION 320A FOR A

23 VIOLATION OF THIS SECTION.

Again, another terrible amendment to the bill.  There’s no reason that people should be texting while driving.  Tack on the additional punishment of points and that will deter people from doing it.

24 Enacting section 1. This amendatory act does not take effect

25 unless House Bill No. 5396 of the 94th Legislature is enacted into

26 law.

Alright, so that’s the bill as passed by the House.  Currently the bill is in the Transportation Committee of the Senate.

I wanted to post a copy of the roll call vote:

Roll Call No. 1003 Yeas—68

Accavitti Dean Johnson Opsommer
Amos Dillon Jones, Rick Pearce
Ball Donigan Jones, Robert Polidori
Bauer Ebli Knollenberg Proos
Bennett Emmons Law, David Rocca
Bieda Espinoza Law, Kathleen Sak
Booher Farrah Leland Schuitmaker
Brown Gaffney Lemmons Scott
Byrnes Gonzales Lindberg Sheltrown
Byrum Green Mayes Simpson
Clack Griffin McDowell Smith, Alma
Clemente Hammel Meadows Smith, Virgil
Condino Hammon Meisner Stahl
Constan Hansen Melton Stakoe
Corriveau Hood Miller Valentine
Coulouris Hopgood Moss Wenke
Cushingberry Horn Nofs Wojno

Nays—32

Acciavatti DeRoche LeBlanc Pastor
Agema Garfield Marleau Pavlov
Angerer Gillard Meekhof Robertson
Brandenburg Hildenbrand Moolenaar Shaffer
Calley Huizenga Moore Sheen
Casperson Hune Nitz Spade
Caswell Jackson Palmer Steil
Caul Lahti Palsrok Walker

In The Chair: Sak

So, it’s pretty apparent that the vote fell mainly along party lines, but there were definitely a good amount of cross-overs (6 Democrats and 21 Republicans).

Representative Caul (R-Isabella) told CM-Life  reporters that he voted against the bill because it was “overstepping the government’s role. … In this case, it’s difficult for enforceability, whether it’s someone using a cell phone or eating a cheeseburger.”

I’m an advocate for personal freedoms (I voted for Proposal 1), but I think allowing texting while driving  goes too far.  Ban it, and enforce that ban.  Hopefully this will pass the Republican-controlled Senate, and with as much Republican support as  this got, I think it will.  I’ve been advocating for a bill like this for a long time, so I’m glad that it’s making some progress.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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9 Responses to “Michigan House of Representatives Votes 68-32 to Ban Texting While Driving”

  1. John P. Says:

    I disagree with you and agree with Mr. Caul. Texting is very indistinguishable from other acts. Does this mean you can’t check your phone while driving? What if you have a bluetooth set and you look at your phone to see who’s calling? Will they have to start checking phone logs in order to see what you were doing while they pulled you over? It’s too hard to enforce and it’s a hypocrisy in the sense that you can eat, drink, and call while driving.

  2. WadeHM Says:

    As a firefighter I really appreciate the section that exempts emergency vehicle operators. NOT. Just what we need, a heavy ladder truck going to a fire and the driver texting while driving. As a captain I once grabbed one of my driver’s cell phones and threw it out the window when he started using it while driving our Rescue truck to a call. He had been warned before, so I had no issues with it. Neither did the chief when I told him what I did.

    We did find the phone, it was in my pocket, I didn’t really toss it but the firefighter thought I did. So did the other firefighters in the truck. Lesson was learned and the department made it a rule, no cellphone use while operating an emergency vehicle. Period.

  3. Luke Says:

    John,
    There is a huge difference between eating and texting while driving. I know that I personally cannot pay close enough attention to the road while texting. This issue isn’t so much about personal freedom as it is about the safety of others on the road. I know that personally, I tend to drift if I am even just trying to dial a number.

    I would say that in general it is safer to eat food while driving than it is to text someone on your phone while driving. Obviously, you have to use some common sense as which foods are easily accessible while driving.

    The issue of checking your phone to see who is calling is an inconvenience, but you can easily prove no wrong doing there. At the moment this is also not as big of an issue because you can only receive a ticket as a secondary offense. Meaning you would have to have been attracting attention anyway.

  4. inkslwc Says:

    John, if a person is looking down at their phone punching moving their thumb around more than a dozen times, I can be pretty sure they’re not just dialing a number or checking who’s calling (no thumbs are even involved in that). If they don’t put the phone up to their face, they’re probably not dialing a number.

    Now, I’m not advocating for checking of logs (that is an invasion of privacy), but if a person wants to show the log to prove their innocence, I’d be OK with that, but you do have the problem of people erasing their text messages.

    Honestly, if it’s too hard to tell, the cop should pull them over (if the person has already broken another law) and simply ask. If they say no and the cop really couldn’t tell, then the cop should just give them the ticket for the primary reason he pulled them over. If the person says yes, problem solved.

  5. John P. Says:

    Luke, I wasn’t trying to distinguish between the distraction factor of a cheeseburger vs. a cell phone. What I was saying is at a speed of 55 mph, it would be very hard for an officer to be able to distinguish what a person was doing just by noticing that they are looking down. Think about it, if a person is texting while driving, they wouldn’t be holding the phone above window level where an officer could see it. Thus, reasonable suspicion would be seeing the driver looking downward. Looking downward could be a number of things i.e. texting, checking your phone, eating etc. It’s just too hard of an act to catch.

  6. Bob Says:

    I have to agree with John on this one, this is a ludicrous law that is too hard to enforce. It seems that our legislators are proving their incompetency again. Rather than doing something that matters, i.e. worrying about the economy, they pass this law to distract us from real issues.

  7. inkslwc Says:

    John, I see where you’re coming from, and again, this is why I said it should only be enforced if it’s caught in the act. They actually have to be seen on the keyboard. I’ve seen plenty of people with their cell phone at steering wheel level texting. If no phone is shown, no ticket should be written (except for the primary offense).

  8. Mike Says:

    I think this is another waste of a law. If the person is driving recklessly, pull them over for reckless driving. We don’t need another law that says if they are driving recklessly because they are texting, then pull them over and issue them two tickets.

  9. Robert Przybylowicz, Jr Says:

    I find my self from time to time texting while I drive. Texting is not that easy and I agree we should do something about it.

    This is what happens when we elect people solely on the basis we have seen a sign with their name on it all over the place so we should vote for that candidate, he must be good enough, his signs say so.

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