Welcome to handsfreemichigan.com, the official webpage of the Hands Free Michigan campaign. The purpose of handsfreemichigan.com, which was created by the Transportation Improvement Association (TIA) on September 24, 2016, is to provide information regarding the hands-free movement TIA is leading in Michigan.
TIA recognizes that Michigan’s current texting law, MCL 257.602b, is too specific to texting and is extremely difficult to enforce. Since portable electronic devices now have numerous capabilities (i.e. social media, e-mail, video chat, a variety of apps, etc.) that drivers are engaging in, 18 states in the nation have a hands-free law. Those states clearly recognize a driver must keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel to safely operate a motor vehicle. MCL 257.602b also does not contain a penalty significant enough to deter distracted driving.
WHAT IS DISTRACTED DRIVING?
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving. Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
THE IMPACT OF DISTRACTED DRIVING
77 people were killed and 7,213 were injured in 18,927 crashes involving a distracted driver in Michigan during 2018.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Please help us eliminate distracted driving in Michigan by contacting your State Senator and Representative and voicing your support for the passage of Senate Bill 288. The contact information for your State Senator and Representative can be found by using the links below.
BACKGROUND – WORKING ON HANDS-FREE SINCE 2010
In 2010, TIA provided support to the City of Troy on a hands-free ordinance. While speaking at a Troy City Council meeting, TIA mentioned the need for a statewide hands-free law.
In 2011, TIA launched the award-winning “Remembering Ally: Distracted Driving Awareness Campaign” after TIA’s CEO, Jim Santilli, sadly attended the funeral of Ally Zimmerman. Ally was a 16-year-old Romeo High School student who was hit by a distracted driver while traveling as an innocent passenger on December 28, 2010. She was very involved in her school and community, and had dreams of changing the world. However, her dreams and life were ended by a distracted driver. Santilli and Ally’s mother, Laurel Zimmerman, immediately recognized that a hands-free Michigan is needed. However, there was no legislative support at the time since distracted driving was a relatively new topic.
At a press conference held in southeast Michigan on March 30, 2016, Santilli announced TIA would be encouraging the Michigan Legislature to pass a hands-free law. Shortly after the press conference, Rep. Martin Howrylak (R-Troy) joined forces with TIA and stated he’d be willing to sponsor the bill. Santilli immediately began conducting research and communicated with officials in other hands-free states to identify successes and challenges. Once best practices were identified, Santilli wrote the language for the hands-free bill. Rep. Howrylak and Santilli announced HB 5867 at a press conference on September 6, 2016. Due to a limited legislative session, Rep. Howrylak re-introduced the bill.
HB 4466 was announced at a press conference on March 31, 2017. Rep. Howrylak and Santilli were joined by the Freybler family who sadly lost their son, Jacob, to distracted driving. HB 4466 had the following co-sponsors: Reps. Jim Ellison (D-Royal Oak), David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids), Frank Liberati (D-Allen Park), Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Township), and Michael Webber (R-Rochester Hills). Furthermore, HB 4466 had the support of Ford Motor Company, General Motors Company, the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, and other entities.
On May 16, 2017, Rep. Howrylak, Laurel Zimmerman, law enforcement leaders, and Santilli testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. During TIA’s testimony, Santilli gave an overview of the language and reasoning behind it. He also emphasized that California enacted a ban on hand-held cell phone use in July of 2008. Based on traffic crash records two years before and two years after the hand-held ban went into effect, overall traffic deaths declined 22% and hand-held cell phone driver deaths went down 47%. Another hearing was scheduled on May 30, 2017. However, Rep. Howrylak and Santilli were unable to speak due to a Committee time constraint. Unfortunately, and despite numerous follow-up messages, the Chairman of the Committee (Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona) and Committee failed to act. Since the first hands-free bill was announced on September 6, 2016, 162 people were killed and 17,410 injured in Michigan due to distracted driving (Note: End period used was December 31, 2018).
On October 3, 2018, Santilli asked Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson if she’d be interested in sponsoring a hands-free bill if she were elected to the Michigan Senate. Secretary Johnson agreed. A follow-up discussion was held on December 13, 2018, in addition to e-mails on January 14, 2019 and February 11, 2019. Ultimately, SB 288 was announced during a press conference at the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office on April 26, 2019. Speakers included Senator Johnson, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Victims Laurel Zimmerman and Jim & Diane Freybler, and Santilli. TIA, in partnership with Zimmerman and Freybler, will continue to pursue the passage of SB 288.
Overall, it is imperative drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel when operating a motor vehicle. TIA is confident a hands-free law will achieve this goal, and give law enforcement the ability to keep our roadways safe.
HB 4466 – LETTERS OF SUPPORT