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GM executive wants to make distracted driving as unacceptable as drunk driving

Texting while driving

The Michigan Department of Transportation and a foundation started by a grieving father are splitting the cost to add a protective cable median barrier on a stretch of I-96.

Steve Kiefer is a GM executive who lost his son Mitchel in an accident caused by a distracted driver who was texting.

"Mitchell's car was struck from behind with such force that it was driven across the median into oncoming traffic," Kiefer said at a press conference.  "Mitchell's car was broadsided by a truck and Mitchell was killed instantly."

The Kiefer Foundation will donate $300,000 dollars for a barrier on I-96 in Ingham County where the accident that killed Mitchel happened.

MDOT will match the funds.

Kiefer says the foundation established in his son's name will also work to make it socially unacceptable to drive while texting or otherwise distracted.

"Think about what we've been able to change over the last 20 years," says Kiefer.  "It's totally socially unacceptable to drink and drive.  It's becoming almost abnormal to see someone not using a seatbelt. You've be aghast if somebody lit a cigarette in here right now or a public restaurant or an airplane, yet every one of us will tolerate somebody grabbing the cell phone in a 2,000 pound vehicle when they're driving."

Kiefer says the Foundation will use the power of social media to try to drive a similar cultural change when it comes to using smart phones while driving.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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