Whitmer signs legislation to curb distracted driving in Michigan ⋆

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday joined state officials and advocates to sign bipartisan legislation aimed at reducing distracted driving by mandating that motorists in Michigan put down their phones when they’re behind the wheel.

“Too many Michiganders have lost loved ones to distracted driving, and everyone should be safe on their way to school, home, or work,” Whitmer said while signing the legislation that goes into effect on June 30 and bans drivers from using their phones without hands-free technology. Those who are caught using their phones while driving will face fines. 

The governor added that the state’s “goal is to see zero traffic deaths by 2050, and I know that by working together we can get it done.” 

Whitmer signed House Bills 4250, 4251 and 4252, which were sponsored by state Reps. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth), Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit,) and Mike Mueller (R-Linden.) In the Senate, state Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren) and Sen. Kevin Hertel (St. Clair Shores) sponsored companion legislation Senate Bills 239, 240 and 241. Wednesday’s bill signing took place at Plymouth’s Mitchel Kiefer Memorial Rink. The hockey arena was dedicated to Mitchel Kiefer, who was killed at the age of 18 by a distracted driver on Interstate 96 in 2016. 

Kiefer’s parents have gone on to found the Kiefer Foundation, which advocates for an end to distracted driving.

I am so pleased and honored to be with Gov. Whitmer and other victims’ families today, as these life-saving bills are signed into law,” said Steve Kiefer, Mitchel Kiefer’s father and the Kiefer Foundation’s founder and chairman.

Steve Kiefer, the president of the Kiefer Foundation, speaks at a June 7, 2023 bill signing in Plymouth, Michigan. Kiefer’s 18-year-old son Mitchel Kiefer died in a distracted driving accident in 2016. | Whitmer office photo

“It is especially moving for me and my family to have these bills signed at the Mitchel Kiefer Memorial Ice Rink, where Mitchel played his last hockey game with Detroit Catholic Central,” said Kiefer, who noted that Michigan is the 26th state to pass a “hands-free” distracted driving law.

A long list of elected officials and advocates working to end distracted driving praised the legislation. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, for example, said the legislation will “save lives on Michigan’s roads.”

Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth), who sponsored HB 4250, noted the bills’ signing “marks the end of five years’ worth of bipartisan work.” 

The Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Commission (GTSAC) was formed by an executive order in 2002 to identify traffic safety challenges and champion strategies to address them. The GTSAC develops regular Strategic Highway Safety Plans to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries on our roadways. The commission developed the last plan in 2019 with a focus on distracted driving and by working together, Michigan’s traffic safety partners have been able to reduce distracted driver fatalities by six percent and reduce fatalities involving drivers under 21 by 8%.

The most recent legislation is “about changing the culture for our young drivers and saving lives,” said Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Linden), who sponsored HB 4252.

“With progressing technology, the new law will reenforce good driving practices, which will ultimately lead to safer roads for all drivers,” Mueller said. “Other states that have enacted these policies have seen proven drops in vehicle collision fatalities.” 

Motorists who violate the new distracted driving law will face a first-time civil fine of $100 and/or 16 hours of community service. Subsequent offenses will land drivers $250 in fines for each violation and/or 24 hours of community service.

Assistant Editor Anna Gustafson contributed to this story.



authored by Ken Coleman
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2023%2F06%2F07%2Fwhitmer-signs-legislation-to-curb-distracted-driving-in-michigan%2F

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