New bill aims to curb distracted driving

Bill proposes 'hands-off legislation'

DETROIT – The days of holding a cellphone while driving a car might be coming to an end in Michigan.

A state lawmaker, backed by the Traffic Improvement Association, is proposing what's called "hands-off legislation."

Because too many people are still texting while driving, current laws are almost unenforceable. The only way to make sure it doesn't happen is to force all cellphone users to engage the hands-free system available in cars or Bluetooth technology.

Sedina Cobbs already has a no-touch policy in her car.

"It's too distracting, but I'll use Bluetooth," Cobbs said.

An estimated 10 percent of traffic deaths in Michigan -- 70 to 100 a year -- are the result of distracted driving from cellphones, experts say

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The proposed bill would prohibit a driver from holding a personal electronic device in a moving vehicle, or one temporarily stopped in traffic. It's patterned after a California law.

"When they compared state crash records two years before and after the handheld ban, overall traffic deaths declined 22 percent, while handheld cellphone deaths fell 47 percent," said Jim Santilli of the Traffic Improvement Association.

Cobbs thinks an outright prohibition goes too far.

"Some vehicles aren't equipped with hands-free devices," Cobbs said.

There is an exception for older vehicles without hands-free or Bluetooth technology. If the phone is mounted to the dash or the windshield, drivers can use one-touch or one-swipe movements to make a call, start a navigation app or trigger voice activation.

"There's too many people, especially young people, texting and getting killed," said Joey Boughner, who supports the proposed bill.

Police said that even when they can catch someone texting, they too often lose in court.

"And even when we get to court, a lot of times all they have to say is, 'I was just dialing my phone, or calling up my navigation system,'" said Aaron Burgess, of Sterling Heights police.