On April 29, 2010 Michigan became the 24th state to make texting while driving illegal when Governor Graholm signed Enrolled House Bill No. 4394. This law now punishes the following behavior, as it is now illegal to:
Read, manually type, or send a text message on a wireless 2-way communication device that is located in the person’s hand or in the person’s lap, including a wireless telephone used in cellular telephone service or personal communication service, while operating a motor vehicle that is moving on a highway or street in this state. As used in this subsection, a wireless 2-way communication device does not include a global positioning or navigation system that is affixed to the motor vehicle.
However, there are three exceptions to the law:
(1) It is not illegal for an individual to send a text message to report a traffic accident, medical emergency, or serious road hazard; or
(2) Report a situation where his or her personal safety is in jeopardy; or
(3) Report or avert the perpetration or potential perpetration of a criminal act against the individual or another person.
Currently, the penalties for violation are insignificant, and largely meaningless. A violation of the law makes the driver responsible for a civil infraction and shall be ordered to pay a civil fine for a first violation, $100.00, and for a second or subsequent violation, $200.00. No points will be added to the driver’s record.
The texting while driving law has all the markings of the next drunk driving law, and it is anticipated that the penalties for violations of this law will quickly increase. This is exactly what happened with drunk driving laws, where only a few decades ago, drunk driving was a simple traffic offense carrying few penalties. Now, largely thanks to MADD, drunk driving is a series criminal offense, often carrying mandatory jail time.
According to Larry Taylor:
In the United States, penalties for drunk driving have steadily increased throughout the past years as organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving have lobbied for stiffer penalties. Higher fines and penalties have increased the importance of proper legal defense when cited for drunk driving. “DUI defense”, a branch of criminal defense law, involves attorneys, investigators and forensic toxicologists who attack prosecution evidence on behalf of accused DUI offenders. Generally, DUI attorneys seek to elucidate inaccuracies in forensic breath and blood testing as well as bias, inexperience and incompetence by arresting officers. It’s not uncommon for DUI charges to be plea bargained into lesser offenses or sometimes dismissed through legal technicalities or jury trial acquittals.
Interestingly, like drunk driving, there is even an organization called “Mothers Against Texting and Driving” and they are modeled after MADD. Here is a video about MATT:
It is easy to foresee a day in the not too distant future where technology has eliminated drunk driving but created a whole new category of crime involving distractions due to technology. It is also easy to foresee that as DUI cases decrease, the revenue they produced for the state will be replaced with distracted driving cases.