HOWELL, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) – Drivers hitting the road for the Fourth of July weekend will want to keep their cell phones out of sight. Friday marked the first day police can issue tickets for Michigan’s new hands-free driving law.
Livingston County Sheriff Deputy Brad Neff has spent 10 of his 14 years on the force with the traffic unit.
“Distracted driving is an issue that we’re seeing,” Neff said.
He says drivers using their cell phones behind the wheel is like drunk driving.
“When things start to happen in front of you, if you’re not ready, it takes you that much longer to react, and that’s when crashes happen,” Neff said.
Under the hands-free law, drivers cannot use cell phones, not even at a stop sign or a red light. You can’t answer a call unless it’s the tap of a single button. You can’t scroll social media. You can’t watch or record anything.
“If they’re driving all over the road, it’s an indication that they’re being distracted, being able to pull up next to them, seeing that their cell phones are in their hand or they’re continuously looking down on their lap. That means they’re looking at their electronic device,” Neff said.
Calls to 911, cell phone mounts, and dashboard screens are exempt.
“The burden of proof that’s needed in the court is 51% that the court would have to find more likely than not that the violation was committed and committed in the law enforcement officer’s presence,” Neff said.
And it’ll be up to the officers to issue a citation or a warning.
“It’ll be a lot more difficult to look in cars at night. I’m not saying that’s when people are going to violate the statute. But you know the time of day, rainstorms, things like that make it more difficult to see inside of cars,” Neff said.
In a ride-along with Deputy Neff, CBS News Detroit sat on I-96 and traveled through Brighton and Howell looking for potential violators, but no one broke the law.
“I think people are using their hands-free devices and not sending text messages or doing things on their cell phone that they’re not supposed to be doing. That’s excellent. That’s what the law is supposed to do is to get people to stay off their phones,” Neff said.
While no one got a ticket during our ride-along, drivers caught breaking the law faced these penalties:
- 1st violation
- $100 fine and/or 16 hours of community service.
- 2nd or subsequent violations
- $250 fine and/or 24 hours of community service.
- 3 violations within a 3-year period
- Complete a driving-improvement course.