Authorities in Michigan, and Macomb County in particular, are searching for solutions to the problem of distracted driving. In that quest, they have unearthed varying strategies, which is good because many traffic safety experts believe it's going to take a multi-pronged approach to effectively tackle the issue.
Among the efforts either in place or being considered:
- Michigan Vehicle Code 257.602b, Michigan's anti-texting law, prohibits reading, sending or typing a text messages on a wireless device. Use of a hand-held mobile device, such as a telephone, is prohibited for commercial drivers and school bus operators.
- A bill proposing tougher texting-and-driving standards, including a $250 fine for drivers using an electronic device not mounted and voice-activated.
- "Operation Ghost Rider" in Macomb County, using officers in unmarked vehicles to catch and ticket distracted drivers.
- Consideration of investment in "textalyzer" technology, which would help police crack down on illegal texting behind the wheel.
As our Macomb County car accident attorneys know, texting while driving is a serious problem - one that is a top concern for many in Michigan. A recent AAA Consumer Pulse survey on distracted driving revealed 95 percent of Michigan's residents said texting and driving was their No. 1 concern on the road.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports nearly 3,500 people died in distracted driving crashes just in 2015. Taking your eyes of the road for just 5 seconds (the average time it takes to read a text message) will have you driving blind for the entire length of a football field, assuming you're traveling 55 mph.
The Operation Ghost Rider, as reported by the Detroit Free Press, is an effort specific to Macomb County, where targeted enforcement efforts involve a "ghost" law enforcement officer who is a passenger in an unmarked vehicle, patrolling trouble areas in search of distracted drivers. The effort is less about issuing tickets and more about warnings and driver education. Currently, when a ticket is issued, it is for $150 and results in no points on one's driving record. That could change if an officer decides to charge an individual with careless driving, which results in three points on one's license, as well as a stiffer fine.
Data on the operation was being tracked by analysts at the Transportation Improvement Association. Those results are likely to be used as part of a plan to promote similar operations statewide.
The textalyzer, meanwhile, hasn't officially been introduced in Michigan, but it's a high plausibility, given the success of the device in several major cities. WMUK 102.1 from Western Michigan University reports the devices are being considered by legislators in New York, New Jersey, Tennessee and Chicago.
The technology is modeled after the Breathalyzer, and would be able to crack into the phone data to determine whether it had been used illegally while the vehicle was in motion, causing a car accident. Lawmakers say far too many distracted drivers get away with it because it can be tough to prove distraction, and they want it treated the same way we treat drunk driving. Officials say the process at this point to obtain phone records is often an arduous one, involving a district attorney, a judge and a warrant.
The textalyzer device would simply connect to the driver's phone and within less than two minutes, would show what the last activities were (i.e., text message, social media post, camera, etc.) and the time stamp. It would show what apps were open on the phone, as well as recent screen taps and swipes. The technology at this point isn't fully developed, but there are promises that it will be soon.