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Michigan Police Look to Crackdown on Drivers Using Phones

Various levels of Michigan police agencies launched a wide crackdown on distracted driving Monday, using unmarked spotter vehicles to catch drivers who are simultaneously using their phones.

Distracted Driving
(TNS) — arious levels of Michigan police launched a crackdown on distracted driving Monday, using unmarked spotter vehicles to catch you on your phone.

Officers from state, county and local agencies are conducting the crackdown dubbed "Operation Ghost Rider" throughout Michigan intending to reduce distracted driving deaths and injuries. Non-profit organization Transportation Improvement Association, based in Troy, Michigan, coordinated "Operation Ghost Rider." It was revealed at a press conference in 2017 in Macomb County.

Several "Operation Ghost Rider" mobilizations will be scheduled during 2024. The operation uses unmarked spotter vehicles to look for distracted drivers. Once the spotter sees a distracted driver, they will radio a fully marked law enforcement unit to initiate a traffic stop.

"Despite knowing the risks, distracted drivers continue to put themselves and the innocent people around them in danger," Jim Santilli, CEO of the Transportation Improvement Association and chairman of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Traffic Safety Advisory Commissions' Distracted Driving Action Team, said in a Sunday statement.

"Sadly, many people have lost a loved one to a completely preventable behavior," Santilli continued. "We can all do our part by keeping our eyes on the road and hands on the wheel at all times."

Michigan's ban on texting and driving expanded in June 2023 to include a ban on driving while holding a phone or looking at a screen. It was the 26th state to establish a hands-free driving law. Distracted driving accounts for 25% of fatal crashes in Michigan, according to State Rep. Matt Koleszar, D — Plymouth, who introduced legislation that helped establish the law.

Multiple people who have lost family members to distracted driving crashes joined Michigan lawmakers at the legislation signing last summer, The Associated Press reported. Steve Kiefer, a retired General Motors executive whose son, Mitchel, was killed in a 2016 distracted driving crash, said that while "we can't bring our loved ones back, this legislation will help save hopefully all of your loved ones."

The legislation outlawed using a hand-held electronic device to do any task, including any of the following:

— Sending or receiving a telephone call.

— Sending, receiving or reading a text message

— Viewing, recording or transmitting a video.

— Accessing, reading or posting to a social networking site.

The hands-free law applies to any time you're behind the wheel of a car — even if you're stopped. Exempt from it are law enforcement, first responders and other public emergency workers performing official duties. Anyone calling or texting 911 or other emergency services will also be exempt from the law.

Violating the law the first time can result in a $100 fine and/or 16 hours of community service while second violations include a $250 fine and/or 24 hours of community service. Violators can also be cited for careless driving, which counts as a three-point offense and a civil infraction punishable by a fine.

Three violations within three years will require the completion of a driving-improvement course. Fines are doubled if a traffic crash occurs, and the at-fault driver was holding or manually using a mobile device while operating the vehicle.

Texting on a cell phone increases the risk of an accident or a near-crash by 23 times, according to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

© 2024 the Midland Daily News (Midland, Mich.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.