Texting while driving has been prohibited by law in Michigan since 2010. If you’re caught texting and driving, you can be fined $100 for a first offense and $200 for subsequent offenses.
But texting isn’t the only way you can be distracted while driving.
There are 3 types of distractions:
Even the most careful driver occasionally does something that’s considered a distraction — and more important than it the fact that it’s against the law is the reality that distracted driving is dangerous.
What activities cause distraction while driving?
Certainly, this is not a complete list of distractions you could experience, but they’re the most common.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 3,166 people were killed by distracted drivers in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available.
Source: NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts
Although texting while driving is illegal in Michigan, there currently is no law against using a mobile phone to talk for most drivers. Teens, however, are not permitted to use a mobile phone for any purpose while driving under Kelsey’s Law.
Kelsey Raffaele’s mom, Bonnie, was a strong advocate for what became known as Kelsey’s Law, which makes it illegal for teen drivers to use a cell phone while behind the wheel, but allows a phone connected to Bluetooth or otherwise integrated into the vehicle.
Specifically, Michigan state law says that teen drivers with a Level 1 or Level 2 driver license are prohibited from:
The only exceptions are:
It’s true that drivers under 20 years old have the highest rates of distraction-related fatalities, but distracted driving isn’t just a teenage problem. For one thing, it affects everyone — not just the driver, but any person who shares the road as a driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist.
In a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 42% of high school students reported sending texts or emails while driving within the month prior to the survey.
The students who reported frequent texting while driving were also less likely to wear a seatbelt, more likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking, and more likely to drink and drive.
However, two-thirds of adults have admitted to reading texts at a red light and more than a quarter of drivers have sent texts while driving. But texting and driving is just as dangerous as driving drunk.
A primary offense means that you can be pulled over and charged with texting and driving as the only reason you’re being stopped. In some states, it’s a secondary offense. In that situation, you’d only be charged with texting and driving if you were pulled over for some other reason (for instance, speeding, failing to stop at a signal, etc.).
If a driver is texting while driving and causes an accident, there are different criminal penalties than an accident where there’s no texting involved.
|Injuries caused by a driver while texting||Penalty|
|Death of another person||Can be found guilty of a misdemeanor and sentenced to jail for 1 year and pay a fine of $2,000.|
|Serious injury to another person||Can be found guilty of a misdemeanor and sentenced to jail for up to 93 days and pay a fine of $500.|
|Causes any collision with a person, vehicle, or another object||4 points on their driver’s license|
Michigan is a no-fault insurance state, which means an insurance company covers its own policyholder for their injuries, regardless of who is at fault.
However, in a texting and driving accident, you can sue the texting driver for your injuries or for the wrongful death of a family member. This can include damages for pain and suffering and other expenses.
Michigan follows a modified comparative fault system, or “51% Rule.”
When an accident happens that involves more than 1 driver, the insurance companies will determine who’s at fault. In many situations, while 1 driver might have caused the accident, there are ways that the other driver might have avoided it and therefore they may be held partially responsible.
Often, texting is the easiest type of distraction to prove because a lawyer can subpoena cell phone records that show exactly what time calls were made, texts were sent, and other functions used, which means they have a better picture of what the driver was doing at the time of the crash. Other types of distractions like eating, passenger behavior, or other activities would be more difficult to prove absent witness testimony.
If a person is texting or reading texts related to their job, and if the employer knows or should know that the person is driving while texting, both the driver and the employer could be sued for negligence.
Employers should make it clear to employees that texting and driving is not acceptable and not permitted.
We’ve talked a lot about how you can be affected by someone else’s distracted driving, but there are also things you can do to make sure that you are not distracted behind the wheel. Here are some actionable tips to avoid causing a distracted driving accident:
As a driver, you have a duty to every other person who shares the road — other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. That means you have a legal duty to each of those people, as well, which is to avoid behaving in any way that would cause them harm or injury.
Along those same lines, if you’re the victim of distracted driving, you deserve to receive financial compensation.
The purpose of the personal injury law system is to make an injured person whole. While no court or lawsuit can heal your physical injuries, the legal system is designed to restore you to the financial condition you’d be in if the accident hadn’t happened.
In that effort, you may be able to recover damages for:
Michigan also awards exemplary damages, which are added compensation awarded to the plaintiff if the defendant’s behavior is especially egregious or if they had a chance to avoid harm and didn’t do so.
For these reasons, it’s important to seek the advice of a qualified attorney. Your attorney will minimize your liability for the accident and maximize the amount of damages you can recover.
Just don’t call them while you’re driving — even the most important phone calls can wait until you’ve arrived at your destination.