Texting and driving is illegal in Michigan, but local and state law enforcement agents and experts say the law is difficult to enforce.
Patch.com editors in Michigan are working to raise awareness of the texting-while-driving problem and asking readers to take a pledge not to text and drive.
Public Act 60 of 2010 prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle while reading, typing, or sending a text message on an electronic wireless device.
Since that law went into affect on July 1, 2010, Rochester Hills deputies have written only 14 tickets for violating it, according to Captain Michael Johnson of the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.
But it's not necessarily because Rochester Hills drivers are abiding by the law.
"The tough part about this is that you have to see somebody texting and driving while the car is moving," Johnson said.
"I can't tell you how many people I drive up next to in this city and they're texting, and they sit through a green light. Texting at stoplights — that's legal."
Often, he said, drivers hold their phones down by their laps while texting, which makes it difficult for law enforcement officials to see.
Jim Santilli, executive director of the nonprofit Traffic Improvement Association of Michigan, agreed that enforcement of texting and driving laws is difficult. The TIA has been working to draw more attention to the dangers of distracted driving; one of the TIA’s projects is a campaign featuring the friends and family of local teenager Ally Zimmerman, who was killed in a distracted driving accident. Santilli said the tragedy is a reminder why it is so critical to educate people about this issue.
“If we save one life or prevent one injury, it’s worth it,” Santilli said.
According to statistics compiled by the TIA, in the last three years in Rochester Hills, there were 143 crashes reported in which a driver was said to be "distracted." In Rochester, there were 19 such "distracted driving" crashes in the past three years.
Michigan State Police Sgt. Mike Church said the texting and driving statute is difficult to enforce, especially with the advancements in smart phones since the law was put in effect in 2010.
Since technology has advanced since the law was passed, drivers could be using their phones to scroll for music, view a webpage or view a map. “The only thing (the law) seems to prohibit is text messaging,” said Church.
While flawed, the law is a good first step, Church said. “It is a very good place to start,” he said.
More about texting and driving:
- Don't Text and Drive: Why You Should Take the Pledge
- Area Woman Develops Free Mobile App to Combat Texting and Driving
- Emergency Crews Play Key Role in Graphic Distracted Driving Video