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Michigan distracted driving law could be cash cow for governments

As of June 30, any driver spotted with a cellphone in hand, even at a stop light, is subject to a $100 ticket

A new law makes it expensive to operate a vehicle with a cellphone in hand, even when the vehicle is stopped at a red light.

House bills 4250, 4251 and 4252 amend Section 602b of the Michigan Vehicle Code, adding to the list of ways motorists may not use cellphones while in driving cars. They also introduce corresponding legal penalties. These bills were introduced April 11. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed them June 7.

Drivers will have to connect their phones to Bluetooth-enabled devices if they wish to use them to make calls, listen to music, or use a navigational system while driving.

Penalties apply even if the driver is stopped at a red light or stop sign. They start at $100 for a first-time ticket. Penalties can reach 24 hours of community service, a fine of $250, or both.

If the driver is deemed responsible for an accident, any penalty will be doubled.

Penalties will be doubled if the driver was operating a commercial vehicle or school bus.

A driver who commits three violations within a three-year period will be required to complete a driver’s training course.

Certain people are exempt. They include:

  • Police officers
  • Law enforcement personnel
  • Fire department members
  • Ambulance drivers
  • Individuals operating or programming automated motor vehicles without a human operator for the purpose of testing

There is also an exception for making an emergency call or reporting a crime.

A Michigan Capitol Confidential review of crash data from michigantrafficcrashfacts.com shows that distracted-driving crashes were down 10% between 2017 and 2021, which is the most recent year recorded. In 2021, fewer than 1% of fatal crashes in Michigan were attributed to distracted driving, and a fraction of a fraction of all crashes in Michigan involved drivers who were using phones.

Related reading: Michigan cell phone ban is a myopic approach to distracted driving

The House Fiscal Agency analysis for House Bills 4250 through 4252 said the bills “would have an indeterminate fiscal impact on the state and on local units of government that would depend on the number of individuals ordered to pay a civil fine.”

The bills were enacted into Public Acts 39, 40, and 41 of 2023.

Read the Michigan Public Acts Table of 2023

“The majority of the revenue would increase funding for public and county law libraries, which are the constitutionally designated recipients of those revenues,” the House analysis continues. “A small portion of the revenue would be deposited into the state Justice System Fund, which supports various justice-related endeavors in the judicial and legislative branches of government and the Departments of State Police, Corrections, Health and Human Services, and Treasury. The fiscal impact on local court systems would depend on how provisions of the bill affected court caseloads and related administrative costs.”

The cellphone ban takes effect June 30.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.