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Ask Chuck: Can Driver's Use Their Phones?

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We get loads of questions about bicycle laws and regulations throughout the week. They range from what to do when you’re struck by a car, the best way to commute safely, even training tips which, we must admit, we take as a bit of a compliment. Each week, we’re going to look at a new question and try to give you an answer and some information that will help you take what you’ve learned and put it into action.

Our first question is an obvious one these days. Everyone seems to be glued to their phones, and whether you’re on a bike or in a car, take a second the next time you’re at a busy intersection and notice everyone’s faces. More than a few, if not most of the people at a red light will be looking down at their phones. Distracting driving is one of the most serious hazards facing cyclists right now, and it’s already had some tragic results over the past few years. That brings us to the question: Is it legal to talk or use your phone while driving in Michigan?

It’s a great question, with a few different answers. First, current law states that most Michigan drivers have no restrictions when it comes to talking on the phone. Only motorists under 17 years of age face any restrictions, The exemptions come for some obvious reasons, such as reporting a traffic accident or crime.

Texting while driving is illegal, however, and that includes reading, writing, or sending a text. Here’s where things could change. Just this past winter, Governor Whitmer called for a ban on all cell phone use except for hands-free devices. That’s a big, big shift in effort to reduce the 20,000 cases of distracted driving reported in 2017 alone, which resulted in 72 fatalities.

The jump from limited cell phone use to safeguards like hands-free is a great improvement. We’re far from pioneering here, however; Michigan would be the 17th state to put hands-free laws on the books. There are some local ordinances that prohibit cell phone use, including in Troy, Michigan. State legislation would make laws uniform, less confusing, and easier to enforce.

The hands-free bills will come to the floor some time this spring. At CyclingLawyer.com, we applaud these efforts as an important step towards making Michigan roadways safer for all users. We’ll work to update on these bills as they make their way through the House.

You can take a closer look at the proposed bills here.

April is Distracted Driver Awareness Month, making it a great time to take a second and remind your friends, family, and fellow cyclists to focus while driving, riding, or navigated the roads this spring.