Yesterday, the Michigan House voted 74-33 to ban texting while driving as a primary offence, meaning that police can ticket for driving while texting without seeing another violation. This is a pleasant surprise and a victory for the elected officials and bicycling advocates who had been pushing for a strong law for months. In our report, Distracted Driving: a Bicycling Advocate’s Resource, we told the story of the League of Michigan Bicyclists and lawmakers trying to strengthen the law. Law enforcement officials felt that creating a weak secondary offence for texting would give offenders of the state’s harsher ‘careless driving’ law a milder plea bargain option. The law that the House passed yesterday would make such plea bargaining less likely. Before the bill becomes law, the Michigan House and Senate have to negotiate a package of laws for Governor Granholm to sign. That is expected to happen soon. Congratulations to Michigan and the League of Michigan Bicyclists.
Other cycling organizations have made banning texting a priority as well. The Florida Bicycle Association made banning texting while driving one their top legislative priorities at the Florida Bike Summit. Florida is approaching the end of their legislative session with their texting ban headed to the Senate floor and working through two less enthusiastic committees in the House. Florida residents can click here to urge key House committee members to advance the bill.
Local Motion is working for a distracted driving law in Vermont. The Senate passed a texting ban and the House added a handheld cell phone ban. Now the two chambers need to come to an agreement. Vermont residents can urge them to do so here.
The Bike-Walk Alliance of New Hampshire has been drawing attention to the issue in Vermont’s neighboring state.
We will continue to monitor and support these efforts. Advocates interesting in learning more about distracted driving campaigns should check out our resources here: http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/reports/distracted_driving.php
League Policy Director
Flusche joined the League in April 2009 and has a B.A. in history from Syracuse University and a Masters of Public Administration with a concentration in public policy analysis from New York University.