Michigan Hands-Free Law: Everything You Need To Know
Just about every law-abiding driver in Michigan needs to be familiar with the state’s hands-free and cell phone law. It is unfortunate that many people aren’t aware of how much the law regarding cell phone use while driving has changed over the years. Many times people will only start analyzing what they have done wrong after they have been pulled over, especially if they were not speeding, were wearing a seat belt, and didn’t run a red light. That said, they never stop to consider that they might have been pulled over by law enforcement for using their cell phone while driving, but that is probably the reason they got pulled over!
Currently, Michigan does not have any standard statewide hands-free laws. That said, seeing how the number of accidents caused by distracted driving is on the rise, many local communities are taking matters into their own hands. Local ordinances are now requiring that drivers use a hands-free device when driving. However, understanding the specifics of how and when the use of hand held devices are allowed by the present laws is important for any driver in Michigan and even those who might be driving through the state.
We’ll go over a couple of basic things that you will want to know about the local ordinances and laws regarding cell phone use when behind the wheel. It is also worth examining how distracted driving could adversely affect your auto liability case if involved in an auto accident.
The Dangers of Using a Cell Phone While Driving
Using a cell phone while driving is also broadly categorized as distracted driving. Virginia Tech Transportation Institute published a couple of statics highlighting the increased risk associated with text messaging while driving or texting while driving as it is called. The statistics show that a person texting while messaging is on average 23.2 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash. That same study found that operating a cell phone, i.e., calling someone while driving, was 12 times more likely to cause a crash.
If anything, those statics are a clear indicator that cell phone use poses a danger for both the driver in the vehicle and other drivers that may be involved in the accident as a result. So, prohibiting the use of cell phones when driving a motor vehicle is beneficial. That said, the easy availability of hands-free devices now poses another important question: what kind of cell phone use is permitted when using a hands-free device? Can you even use it while driving in Michigan?
Is Cellphone Use via a Hands-Free Device While Driving in Michigan Banned or Illegal?
At present, there isn’t a hands-free law in the state. However, there are several present laws that address the use of technology and their role as a distraction while driving. We’ll go into a couple of these laws regarding distracted driving below.
Are Drivers Allowed Texting While Driving?
The short answer to this is that drivers aren’t not allowed by law to text and drive. Specifically, MCL 257.602b(1) and (2) prohibits all drivers, regardless of who they are, from texting while they are driving. The law states that drivers shouldn’t read any type of message and send a text message on a device that’s located in their hands or lap, including cellular phones or any other personal communication device. Those who are found violating the law will face expensive fines, which become even more expensive with each added breach of traffic safety rules.
Making Calls While Driving a Motor Vehicle
Even though there is a law that prohibits drivers from texting while driving, there is no law against taking on a cellphone while driving. That said, there is a law in place which prohibits teens or anyone with a level 1 or level 2 graduated license from using a cell phone when behind the wheel. Called the “Kelsey’s Law,” it prohibits mostly teens from using their phones when driving, which means that they can’t even answer a call when driving in Michigan.
Using Hands-Free Technology to Call and Text While Driving
At the moment, the law regarding the use of hands-free technology while driving in Michigan is unclear at best. At present, the anti-texting law only governs handheld devices that are held either in hand or placed on the lap. The law does not have any mention of using a voice-operated hands-free or even a mounted device like what many of the latest vehicles come equipped with, making calling and texting easier without having to take your hands off the wheel.
Kelsey’s law is also unclear since there are no provisions for making calls or texting via a hands-free device or using hands-free technology. Even though technically, using hands-free technology assumes that the driver will not be distracted while driving. That said, Kelsey’s Law includes an exception for teens that use a voice-operated system in their vehicle. However, the exception does not go into any specifics for teen or adult drivers.
Cellphone Laws For School Bus and Truck Drivers
Similar to all other drivers in the state of Michigan, school bus and truck drivers are strictly prohibited from texting when behind the wheel. However, the law for them is stricter since, unlike other licensed drivers in the state of Michigan, they aren’t allowed to talk or even answer a cellphone call when actively driving, according to (MCL 257.602b(3).
The cell phone law in Michigan further states that school bus and truck drivers can’t engage in voice communication while temporarily stationary either because of traffic or even because of a traffic control device or any other delays for that matter. In other words Michigan law prohibits drivers of trucks and school buses from making a call, receiving one or texting even if they are stuck in a traffic jam or are stationary at a red light.
The term “use” in the law means using one handheld device to make a call, dial a number, or answer a call by pressing one or more buttons. Also, interacting with the mobile device in any way that temporarily requires that the driver maneuvers into a position in which they aren’t seated, like when reaching for a cell phone, tablet computer, or any other device in the back seat.
Exception for Emergencies
Now there are exceptions for emergencies mentioned in Michigan’s cell phone law. The emergencies during which you can use a cellphone while driving a motor vehicle include reporting a crime, a crash, medical emergencies, and life-endangering road hazards. Also, drivers are allowed to use cellphones in instances where their personal safety is jeopardized.
Currently Proposed Distracted Driving Laws in Michigan
Over the past few years, the lack of clarity surrounding the use of hands-free technology has prompted many lawmakers to introduce quite a few bills that expand on existing laws. At present, three bills are pending in the Michigan House of Representatives, which aim to amend the existing anti-texting Law as well as the Kelsey’s Law.
• House Bill 4181 – It seeks to expand Kelsey’s Law, mainly by eliminating all the current hands-free use (an exception written into the law), that allows teens to use a voice-operated communication built into their vehicle.
• House Bill 4198 – It has been introduced to mainly expand on the present anti-texting law. Its aim is to clarify the definition of digital communication, which according to the bill, should include reading text messages, writing and sending messages in addition to using social media when driving. The bill also states that digital communication shouldn’t include the use of voice and hands-free interaction.
• House Bill 4199 – The goal of house bill 4199 is to expand on the present anti-text law by raising fines for violators in Michigan. The heftier fines proposed are between $200 to $500, which would replace fines that are currently between $100 and $250 for distracted driving.
No New Cellphone Law Has Passed
Even though Gov Gretchen Whitmer has committed to banning hand held phone use while driving but pending proposed legislation as we’ve seen above does not go as far as she may want.
While the Michigan legislature has been looking into enacting legislation that prohibits the use of cellphones or mobile devices while driving, but so far, no new law has been effectively passed. In other words, there have been no changes made to the existing laws concerning the use of hand held phones and texting while behind the wheel. However, the science certainly shows that there is a direct link between texting or talking on the phone to accidents.
We have heard some people say that new laws regarding cellphone use were passed in 2019, but that isn’t the case. The law enacted in August 2019 took effect in Minnesota, which prohibited the use of cellphones when driving. However, a couple of people got it mixed up with Michigan. That’s why this incorrect information is still online. That said, new laws regarding cellphone use while driving may be enacted at any time.
Distracted Driving Ordinances in Michigan
The present laws regarding distracted driving in Michigan are very specific about texting. That said, almost every city in the state can create its own local ordinances, which in most cases are much stricter compared to state laws.
Over in Battle Creek for instance the local ordinance prohibits using a phone or hand held device while driving. That means you can’t speak on the phone but also can’t type or scroll on your phone. The Law within Battle Creek is evident from all the signs posted at the city’s entry and exit points notifying people entering the city. However, Battle Creek is just one example of a city that’s enacting much stricter distracted driving laws. Many of the laws regarding distracted driving were enacted after a spate of accidents in recent years.
Other similar examples are of Detroit and Troy, both of which have ordinances expanding on state laws. Today with the growing number of Michigan cities taking distracted driving more seriously, drivers need to stay alert and watch out for signs that prohibit using cellphones within those city’s limits.
Have You Been in an Accident Due to Cell Phone Use or Distracted Driving?
Even though present Michigan state laws may allow a licensed driver to make calls while driving, distracted driving is still very dangerous. Even though using your cellphone may not be entirely illegal under local or state laws, it will still get you into trouble, especially if you meet in an accident with your car, truck or bus.
The use of a cell phone can be considered a negligent act, and the driver is held responsible for the harm caused in the event of an accident. That’s why regardless of the law in Michigan, it is never OK to drive while distracted by anything, including a phone. Your safety and that of those with you onboard matter, that’s why calling, and texting is a risk that you shouldn’t take. Only use your cell phone when driving in an emergency. If you have any other question or have been involved in a personal injury due to the use of a cell phone, contact our Lansing personal injury attorneys for a free consultation.
- Home | Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
- Michigan Legislature – Section 257.602b
- SOS – Kelsey’s Law Update for Teens – Mobile phones banned for GDL 1 and 2 teen drivers
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