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Hands Free Driving, Zero Traffic Deaths by 2050

June 13, 2023

Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog e-newsletter

(PLYMOUTH) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bipartisan anti-distracted driving package Wednesday that expands the texting and driving ban to include most uses of the modern-day cell phone.

HB 4250, HB 4251 and HB 4252 expand distracted driving laws to include watching or recording videos and engaging in social media. It also allows a court to order drivers to complete a basic driver improvement course “if they are found responsible for three or more civil infractions within a three-year period,” a press release said.

When asked if the governor, herself can put the phone down while driving, she said she hasn’t driven in five years. As governor, she has a driver.

The legislation goes into effect June 30. Whitmer said her goal is to have zero traffic deaths by 2050.

The legislation has been introduced in the past, but Whitmer said the current legislature has taken action to keep people safe, including gun safety policy changes and this package signed Wednesday.

The hundred deadliest days of summer officially began on Memorial Day, Whitmer said, right on time for hands-free driving to be pushed.

The package was sponsored by Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth), Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) and Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Linden) and passed the Senate with 27 votes and the House with 68 votes.

The legislation was endorsed by the Kiefer Foundation, an organization advocating for the end of distracted driving founded by the father of Mitchel Kiefer, who was killed by a distracted driver in 2016. Mitchel was a hockey goalie and Michigan State University freshman.

Michigan is the 26th state to adopt “hands-free” legislation, said Steve Kiefer, founder and chairman of the Kiefer Foundation.

“We’re not stopping here. We’re kicking off  hands-free Florida next,” Kiefer said at the Mitchel Kiefer Memorial Ice Rink where the bill signing was held.

Safety and business both have an interest in keeping vehicle designs and features at the leading edge of technology, said Lisa Lunsfordchair of MICHauto.

Engineers and innovators create features to address the challenge of combining busy people and new technology, such as advancing adjustable mirrors to monitor blind spots and trading tape players for CD players, Lunsford said.

The tech industry has a responsibility to push for better, safer and smarter technology, Lunsford said.

“It seems the more we innovate creative ways to protect drivers, technology emerges and invites additional distractions and some irresponsible behaviors,” said Brad Wieferich, director at the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Wieferich said the legislation will also make work zones safer by requiring drivers to be more attentive.

The biggest determinants of success are how good the campaign is and how big the enforcement is, Kiefer said.

Michiganders will start seeing enforcement awareness campaigns this summer on road signs, billboards and broadcast public service announcements, Whitmer said.

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