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Governor Whitmer signs bill banning hand-held phone use while driving

Rick Pluta
Steve Keifer spoke as Governor Gretchen Whitmer was about to sign a bill to enact penalties to discourage drivers from using hand-held electronic devices behind the wheel. Keifer’s 18-year-old son Mitchel died in 2016 in a vehicle crash related to distracted driving.

Driving while holding onto a phone or some other electronic device will be against the law in Michigan starting June 30.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the bill into law Wednesday in a ceremony attended by the families of people killed in crashes where distracted driving played a part.

“Each traffic death is more than just a statistic,” said Whitmer. “It’s a human being. It’s a person with a story and a family, a life cut short.”

Drivers will still be allowed to use phones, but only in the hands-free mode. Exceptions will be allowed to report a crime or call for emergency assistance.

Drivers would face a fine of up to $100 for a first offense. A second offense could cost drivers up to $250. For a third offense, drivers would face the same fine plus an order to take a road safety refresher course.

Whitmer cited AAA-Michigan statistics that say the 100 days after Memorial Day are the deadliest time of year on Michigan roads.

“This will reduce distracted driving crashes that have taken too many lives and shattered so many families across Michigan,” she said. “Every driver in Michigan knows that their attention must be on the road, not on their phone.”

The ceremony took place at a hockey arena in Plymouth Township named for Mitchel Keifer. The 18-year-old was killed in 2016 in a highway crash that involved a distracted driver.

Mitchel’s father Steve Kiefer and the rest of his family spent years lobbying for the law. Keifer said they’re not done.

“This is the 26th state, but we’re not stopping here,” he said. “We’re going to take a little time to celebrate. We’re kicking off hands-free Florida next and we will not stop until all 50 states have hands-free legislation on the books, saving lives all over the country.”

Whitmer has set a goal of steadily reducing traffic fatalities in Michigan to reach zero by the year 2050.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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