GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the team at Michigan Auto Law is observing the distinction in a special way.
The attorneys award a scholarship every year during this month. It’s the Kelsey’s Law Distracted Driving Awareness Scholarship, offered in partnership with Bonnie Raffaele, who fought for passage of Kelsey’s Law after her daughter lost her life in a distracted driving crash.
The goal is to craft a message in a YouTube video, graphic or tweet that persuades others, especially teen drivers, to stop texting while driving and to avoid distracted driving.
The 2022 winners include:
- Overall Best Submission: $2,000 Anh Dang – Byron Center High School, Byron Center
- Best Video Submission: $1,500 Ethan Singer – North Farmington High School, Farmington Hills
- Best Graphic Submission: $1,000 Rylie Steuer – Wayland Union High School, Wayland
- Best Tweet Submission: $500 Connor Wolfe – Byron Center High School, Byron Center
- Deadline for the 2023 scholarship is March 31, 2023
According to Michigan Auto Law attorney Brandon Hewitt, Michigan law prohibits all drivers from texting while driving using a hand-held phone or a phone in their lap. (MCL 257.602b(1))
Most drivers are NOT prohibited from using a cell phone (holding, dialing, initiating a call, answering, talking and listening, and/or reaching for) while driving. Teen drivers ARE prohibited from using a cell phone while driving under Kelsey’s Law – except there is a loophole if the teen driver is “using a voice-operated system that is integrated into the motor vehicle.” (MCL 257.602c(1) and (3))
Truck drivers and school bus drivers ARE prohibited from using a “hand-held” cell phone while driving. (MCL 257.602b(3))
There is nothing under current Michigan law that prohibits texting or cell phone use while driving if done using a hands-free feature, although Hewitt says, “hands-free does not necessarily mean RISK-free.”
Penalties for texting while driving include a civil infraction, a $100 fine for first offense and $200 for second. There are no points on a person’s driver’s license (so long they are not truck drivers or school bus drivers). (MCL 257.602b(6); 257.320a(2))
Hewitt shared some statistics around distracted driving:
- Distracted driving-related car crashes (i.e., where a driver was using a cell phone) in Michigan increased approximately 27% overall between 2016 and 2020.
- Fatal distracted driving-related auto accidents (i.e., where a driver was using a cell phone) in Michigan increased approximately 88% between 2016 and 2020.
- The total number of distracted driving-related motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. increased approximately 11% between 2015 and 2019, from 885,000 to 986,000.
- Distracted driving was a factor in 9% of all fatal crashes in the U.S. in 2019.
- 6% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes in the U.S. in 2019 were distracted at the time of the crashes.
As for teen drivers:
- More than 17% of the drivers involved in distracted driving-related crashes in Michigan in 2020 were “20 years of age or younger.”
- 9% of the teen drivers (aged 15 to 19) who were involved in fatal crashes in the U.S. in 2019 were distracted. No other age group had a larger proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the fatal crashes they were involved in.
Watch this video to see the winning student entry, learn the statistics on distracted driving, and why Hewitt says distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. You can read more about distracted driving on the blog at www.MichiganAutoLaw.com.
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