News Story

Will Troy’s Crackdown On Distracted Driving Spread?

City tickets drivers talking on handheld cellphones

In 2010, Troy became one of the first cities in Michigan to pass a law that bans the use of a handheld cellphone while driving.

But the city has ramped up enforcement actions over the past two years, with the number of tickets issued annually for distracted driving more than quadrupling, from 65 to 2016 to 288 in 2018.

Troy police officials say they have made distracted driving an enforcement priority and regard the effort as a possible precursor to Michigan becoming a state where motorists can be ticketed for driving while talking on a handheld cellphone.

“There will be increasing efforts from the State level to address ‘distracted driving’ as research is compiled showing its negative impacts on safety, in conjunction with legislative efforts to make Michigan a ‘hands free’ law state,” said Troy Police Department Captain Robert Redmond in an email.

The city of Troy created a traffic safety unit that has made ticketing motorists for distracted driving a priority, according to Redmond. He said that the unit issued 240 citations for distracted driving from July 1, 2018, to April 1, 2019.

Troy police say they have increased their enforcement work, in part, because an organization called the Transportation Improvement Association has made it more of a priority, citing safety concerns. The TIA is a Troy-based private organization that studies transportation issues and is funded by government and corporate entities.

TIA says it is working to expand a multi-agency enforcement action undertaken in 2017 and 2018, called Operation Ghost Rider. That ticketing campaign involved the Michigan State Police, county sheriffs and local police departments placing law enforcement spotters in unmarked cars to look for instances of distracted driving. The spotters then radio ahead to patrol cars to pull over the alleged distracted driver.

No bills have been introduced in the current or recent legislative sessions to ban the use of handheld cellphones while driving. The last such bill was introduced in 2014, and it was to prohibit the practice while driving through a highway work zone. Before that, a bill in 2011 would have banned drivers age 17 or younger from handheld phone use. The bill that became Michigan’s ban on texting while driving originally applied also to talking on handheld phones, but it was amended before it was passed.