Distracted driving is one of the deadliest forces on America’s highways. In 2014 alone, distracted driving killed 3,129 people and injured 431,000. Tragically, young people are disproportionately affected by distracted driving. Around ten percent of drivers between 15 and 19 who were involved in fatal crashed were distracted at the time the crash occurred.
Hoping to curb this worrying trend, the National Safety Council has named April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Through its concerted social media campaign, the organization hopes to educate American drivers of the severe dangers of distracted driving.
What Exactly Is Distracted Driving?
A distracted driver is anyone who is in control of a vehicle while:
- Talking on the phone
- Eating or drinking
- Looking at a map
- Adjusting music or air conditioning
- Talking with passengers
- Using computer
Texting is considered one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving because it takes the driver’s visual, manual, and thinking abilities away from driving. In essence, texting completely removes the driver’s ability to control his or her vehicle or to react to road conditions. Simply put, there is absolutely no circumstance under which texting while driving is safe, so you should always pull over to read or send texts.
How Dangerous is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is a growing problem because there have never been so many distractions for drivers in today’s hyper-connected world. According to one survey, around one-third of drivers admitted to texting while driving at one point or another. At any given moment, almost 700,000 drivers on America’s roads are using electronic devices while they drive.
While texting, a driver’s eyes leave the road for about 5 seconds. At a conservative speed of 55 mph, the average texting driver covers the length of a football field while being totally oblivious to his or her surroundings. During those 5 seconds, anything could happen.
The Distracted Driving Month campaign presents compelling statistics and heart-wrenching videos, but it is unlikely that it will change the epidemic of distracted driving spreading across the country. For some, the daily commute may be the only time to chat with friends during hectic workdays. Others may wrongly assume that they have the ability to text while paying attention to the road.
What Are the Penalties for Distracted Driving in Michigan?
According to section 257.602b of the Michigan Driving Code, it’s illegal to read, write or send a text while driving. If you get caught texting while driving, you will have to pay a $100 civil fine. For the second offense, the fine increases to $200. You may avoid paying the fine if you or your lawyer can demonstrate that you were texting in order to report:
- An accident, medical emergency, or road hazard
- A situation where your personal safety may be in jeopardy
- A criminal act being perpetrated against you or another person
If your distracted driving contributes to a severe or deadly accident, you may face criminal charges of vehicular manslaughter or reckless driving. In addition, you may face civil liability to compensate anyone who gets injured because of your distracted driving. At Davis Law Group, we have significant experience helping drivers defend against both civil and criminal violations of Michigan’s driving laws. If you need a Detroit criminal defense lawyer, call us today at (313) 818-3238 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.