Gov. Gretchen Whitmer endorsed a bill expanding Michigan’s texting-while-driving laws on Wednesday. The bill, HB 4198, which was introduced by state Rep. Triston Cole, R-Charlevoix, proposes to make it illegal to read emails and send messages over social media while driving. Additionally, it seeks to prevent new drivers ages 16 and 17, with either level 1 or level 2 licenses, from talking and listening to a cell phone when operating motor vehicles.
In a press release, Cole touted the importance of creating safer roads by limiting distractions for drivers.
“It’s time we put our cell phones away while driving—and that includes checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the rest of it,” Cole wrote. “Social media can wait until the driving is done. Making this important change to Michigan law will keep our roads safer for everyone by eliminating potential distractions for drivers.”
Currently, Michigan law only covers the restrictions on texting while driving. Reactions to the bill have been positive from campus leaders on both sides of the political aisle.
In an email interview with The Daily, Public Policy senior Katie Kelly, communications director for the University’s chapter of College Democrats, lauded the initiative for improving the safety of everyone on the roads and commended Whitmer for supporting it.
“Governor Whitmer’s initiative to pass a bill for hands-free driving in Michigan will help improve the safety of everyone on the roads,” Kelly wrote. “Be it texting while driving or scrolling through social media, looking at a screen while driving drastically increases your chances of an accident.”
Notably, the new bill does not restrict adult Michigan drivers from talking and listening on their phones while driving. Kelly also praised this part of the bill, framing it as a smart decision that avoids over-restricting drivers on what they are able to do while driving.
“The bill still allows for cell phone use through voice operated methods so no one will miss any crucial calls while driving,” Kelly said. “This bill is meant to ensure the safety of the citizens of Michigan, and I commend Governor Whitmer for supporting it.”
Likewise, Kinesiology junior Jackson Schleuning, treasurer of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, also had a very positive reaction, describing road safety as a shared interest for everyone.
“No matter if you are a man or a woman, black or white, gay or straight, everybody uses these roads and when you make the decision to drive distracted, you are putting everybody at risk,” Schleuning said.
Additionally, Schleuning also described a personal loss he experienced because of distracted driving.
“When (Whitmer) initially touched on the hands-free part, one of the guests in her gallery was a family member of someone who was killed by a distracted driver and who was actually one of my best friends,” he said. “He was traveling about 50 miles an hour when he had to slow down because there was traffic coming on. The woman driving behind him did not realize that and hit him from behind, sending him across the median where a tractor-trailer hit him right on.”
LSA freshman Rina McClain also expressed approval of the new bill, even casting it as somewhat of an inevitability.
“I guess I would that think this would happen sooner or later just because any of the stuff online can be distracting while driving,” she said. “It doesn’t really surprise me — it makes sense that a bill is trying to be passed to expand restrictions.”
McClain also commented on the impact that this bill would have on University students who drive, bringing up their frequency of phone usage.
“Anyone from this generation… are so dependent on their phones,” McClain said. “If you’re addicted to your phone, then it’s going to be a problem for you, especially with social media.”