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Using social media while driving could be illegal under proposed laws

House Bill 4277 would expand Michigan's current texting and driving laws to include social media sites, apps and video use.

Currently, you can be ticketed for texting while driving. However, Michigan's current laws do not specify other mobile device usage, like browsing Instagram or Twitter while on the road. 

Three bills cleared the House Judiciary Committee last week expanding distracted driving laws. 

House Bill 4277 would prohibit the use of a mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle. This includes accessing, reading or posting to social networking sites; viewing, recording or transmitting video on a mobile device; or wearing headphones or earphones in both ears to listen to music or other sound. 

"Michigan's current distracted driving law only addresses texting while driving," said Adrienne Woodland, spokesperson for AAA Michigan. "It doesn't prohibit the other ways individuals interact with their cell phones, such as mobile apps, social media, video streaming. It's just about updating the laws to meet the current technology."

AAA commended the recommendation of the bills from committee. According to 2019 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, in Michigan there were 64 fatal crashes involving a distracted driver, resulting in 71 fatalities.

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"Five seconds of reading an email or streaming or scrolling on social media," said Woodland, "is like driving across a football field blindfolded."

The other two bills, House Bill 4278 and House Bill 4279, update traffic violation points and prohibit cell phone use for graduating licenses. 

David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) is one of the sponsors of the bills. He said, "We need to update the law. Because as cell phones become more and more part of our lives, there is more and more temptation to use them for various reasons while driving. We need to keep our roads safe, and people focused on keeping themselves safe, while they drive."

The pandemic has increased reliance on video chatting, but Lt. Michelle Robinson with the Michigan State Police said that can be dangerous while driving. 

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"Human instinct is to look at the person that you're talking to," said Robinson. "And if it is a FaceTime video on your phone, you're going to be looking at that phone, even if it's mounted on some kind of cell phone mount thing to your windshield or to the vents in your vehicle."

Robinson said there has been an increase in people speeding lately. Combined with distracted driving from cell phone use, that can be a dangerous situation heading into summer months. 

"They don't even see the child, or a bicyclist, or motorcyclists," said Robinson. "We're coming into the warmer seasons of summer. If someone is distracted, that could cost someone their life."

Under the proposed bill, first offense of using social media or video while driving would be $100. Subsequent violations would cost $250. 

"Put it away," said Woodland. "Put your mobile device out of sight, so you're not tempted to pick it up. Know where you're going. If you're going to be using a navigation system, program it before you begin your drive. If you do have to text or make a phone call, pull over pull off the road safely and stop first."

AAA also offered these tips to avoid distracted driving:

  • Put it away. Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation.
  • Know where you’re going. If using a navigation system, program the destination before driving.
  • Pull over. If you must call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.
  • Ask passengers for help. If riding with someone, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a message.
  • Be a good passenger. Speak out if the driver of your vehicle is distracted.
  • Don’t be a distraction.  Avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving.
  • Activate Do Not Disturb. Setting up this feature on iPhone or Android device will prevent calls from coming in while you’re driving.
  • Everyone should avoid distractions while in traffic. Just as drivers need to pay attention, so do pedestrians and bicyclists. Never call, text or play games while walking or cycling.

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