Drivers may soon be adding texting to their list of illegal things to do behind the wheel.
With a vote of 74-33, the State House recently passed a bill that allows police to stop and ticket drivers they suspect to be reading or typing text messages on a hand-held cell phone.
The texting-while-driving ban will allow police to fine drivers $100 dollars for their first offense and $200 for multiple offenses. However, no points will be placed on the driver’s license.
Criminal justice major Rance Dillard said he feels Michigan’s texting ban is a good idea. Dillard said banning texting while driving will cause drivers to focus more of their attention on the road.
“It’s worth it because people do need to pay attention to the road,” said Dillard.
A study released by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute said that texting while driving took a driver’s focus away from the road for an approximate average of 4.6 seconds. The same study reported that truck drivers who texted on the road were 23 times more at risk of a crash.
Ferris State sophomore Dulinh Nguyen said she also agrees with the state’s decision to ban texting while driving. However, like many students the ban will affect, Nguyen is unsure if Michigan’s texting law can be properly enforced by police.
“I feel it is a good thing to do since rates of accidents are increasing worldwide just due to texting,” said Nguyen. “My only concern is what constitutes as texting on the road?”
Nguyen said this could cause innocent drivers to potentially be pulled over due to an officer’s misassumption.
“With all the different phones these days, what if it looks like you are texting but you’re not?” said Nguyen. “I wouldn’t want to get fined for something I didn’t do.”
Director of Public Safety Martin Bledsoe said that he has personally witnessed individuals texting while driving. Bledsoe said the most effective way for officers to enforce the ban will be by watching a driver’s inconsistency behind the wheel.
“I’ve literally seen people with their arms in front of the steering wheel texting,” said Bledsoe. “These drivers often have erratic driving and make abrupt traffic stops.”
For drivers who may not agree that texting while driving is a dangerous action, Bledsoe said the state’s decision is based on accurate statistical information.
“We have lawmakers who have talked to experts in the field who’ve researched the dangers of driving while texting,” said Bledsoe.
Legal studies major Duane Roberts said preventing drivers from texting on the road will help reduce the amount of car accidents.
“I believe that it is a necessary law that will help make driving safer for others and limit distractions,” said Roberts.
The bill will not be signed into law without the support of a companion bill. Once signed, the texting ban will take effect as early as July 1. n