Legislation Introduced to Reduce Distracted Driving Deaths and Injuries

Contact: Jim Santilli, CEO, (248) 334-4971

(left to right) Diane and Jim Freybler, parents of Jacob Freybler; Chief Eric Hawkins, Southfield Police Department; Jim Santilli, CEO of the Transportation Improvement Association; and State Representative Martin Howrylak (R-Troy) announce HB 4466, a hands-free bill, on March 31, 2017.

SOUTHFIELD, Michigan, March 31, 2017 – Jim Santilli, chief executive officer of the Transportation Improvement Association, and State Rep. Martin Howrylak (R-Troy) today announced distracted driving legislation they’ve designed with the goal of reducing fatalities, injuries, and traffic crashes in Michigan.

“When operating a motor vehicle, we all have a personal responsibility to protect our life and the lives of the innocent people traveling around us at all times,” said Santilli.  “No text message, social media update, internet search, or any other distraction is worth putting a life in jeopardy.  I commend Representative Howrylak and the bipartisan co-sponsors for their commitment to ensuring all people return home to their loved ones each day.”

House Bill 4466 was introduced by Howrylak and co-sponsored by 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).  The bill states that a person may use a portable electronic device while operating a motor vehicle if the portable electronic device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and is being used in that manner by the person while operating a motor vehicle.

“The number of distracted drivers continues to rise and we must take action to make our roadways safer,” said Rep. Howrylak.  “House Bill 4466 seeks to ensure Michigan drivers have their attention focused on the road at all times, instead of a mobile device.”

If this legislation is signed into law, a driver may use a portable electronic device in hands-free mode as long as the driver can activate or deactivate a function on the portable electronic device with a single swipe or tap of their finger. The portable electronic device must also be safely mounted on the windshield, dashboard, or center console in a manner that does not hinder the driver’s view of the road.

The bill calls for violators to receive a civil infraction, beginning with a $250 fine for the first violation.  A second violation would result in a $500 fine and 1 point.  A third or subsequent violation carries a $500 fine and 2 points.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, drivers who use a hand-held device are 4 times more likely to get into a crash serious enough to cause injury.  Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash.

“Traffic crashes are preventable and can be avoided when drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel,” said Chief Eric Hawkins of the Southfield Police Department.  “The entire law enforcement community remains dedicated to keeping all motorists safe through education and enforcement initiatives.”

The bill defines a portable electronic device as a wireless telephone, electronic wireless communication device, personal digital assistant, device that has mobile data access, laptop computer, pager, broadband personal communication device, 2-way messaging device, electronic game, portable computing device, a navigation or GPS device, or any other electronic device that is used to conduct a search or to input, write, send, receive, or read text for present or future communication.  A portable electronic device does not include a two-way radio, or amateur radio equipment used by a licensee of the Federal Communications Commission.

Use is defined as holding a portable electronic device while conducting a search; viewing, taking, or transmitting an image or video; playing games; or for the purpose of present or future communication, performing a command or request to access an internet page or composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving, or retrieving an e-mail message, text message, instant message, or other electronic data.

The movement for a hands-free law began after Santilli attended the funeral for Ally Zimmerman, 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.  He immediately joined forces with Ally’s family and friends to create the “Remembering Ally: Distracted Driving Awareness Campaign.”  The award-winning campaign reached people in more than 90 countries.  Santilli and Ally’s mother, Laurel Zimmerman, both agreed that Michigan’s current texting law is too specific and a hands-free law would be easier to enforce.  After communicating with public safety leaders throughout the nation to determine the best language for a bill, Santilli officially announced a plan to send a hands-free recommendation to the Michigan Legislature during a press conference on March 30, 2016.  Shortly after the announcement, Howrylak reached out to Santilli and offered to sponsor the bill.

“I commend Representative Howrylak for introducing a hands-free bill,” said Zimmerman.  “Too many families have experienced a loss due to distracted driving.  Ally loved to help others and would want this bill passed.”

According to Santilli, 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%,” said Santilli.

Jim Freybler, who lost his son to texting and driving, supports the ban on hand-held cell phone use.

“As drivers, we all have the ability to save lives and prevent injuries through the choices we make,” Freybler.  “A brief distraction can take away a loved one forever.  Please remember my son, Jacob, and don’t drive distracted.”

TIA is currently creating www.handsfreemichigan.com.  The webpage will feature updates and a list of supporters.