Battle Creek Commissioner Fights for Stricter Distracted Driving Laws

February 12, 2019

With the increasing reliance on smartphones, using phones while driving has become a major problem over the years. In fact, the three most common causes of accidents are drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving. To fight this problem, most states have some sort of law in place regarding using a phone behind the wheel. This includes Michigan, which has a law prohibiting texting and driving. But the Battle Creek City Commissioner is looking to define distracted driving more clearly.

Katee Faris, Battle Creek City Commissioner, has introduced an ordinance that would crack down on distracted driving. The ordinance will be voted on during this month’s Battle Creek City Commission meeting.

The Commissioner states that while the law does prohibit texting behind the wheel, it doesn’t go far enough to prohibit any other phone activities.

Faris used state data to support her decision, saying, “According to the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center in 2016, there were 12,788 crashes in Michigan involving distracted driving, resulting in 43 fatalities and 5,103 injuries. In 2016, cell phones were involved in 1,912 crashes in Michigan, which is 15 percent of all distracted driving involved crashes. Of the 1,912 crashes in Michigan involving cell phone use, 1,893 (99 percent) involved usage by a motor vehicle driver.”

The proposal originated from the city’s Bicycle Task Force — cyclists are growing increasingly concerned about being hit by a driver who is on their phone behind the wheel.

Battle Creek City resident Amber Deal was hit by a car recently. Talking about the incident, Deal said, “I don’t know if he was on his phone or what, but he actually hit me. It makes me pay attention more, because I see these people not paying attention to me. You know, I might have the right of way, and they could turn the corner, and hit me, because they’re too busy on their phones.”

Bike-vehicle collisions have increased over the years, many of which appeared to be caused by distracted driving. This is why the Battle Creek Bicycle Advisory Committee is pushing for stricter distracted driving laws.

Sadly there are roughly 6 million car accidents on U.S. roads every year. With about 218 million people having U.S. driver’s licenses in 2015 alone, there are more drivers on the roads today than ever before. And this means there are more people who could put others at risk by using their phone while driving.

If the ordinance is passed, anyone behind the wheel would not be allowed to touch or talk on their phone. But talking on a phone through a speaker or while the phone is mounted would still be allowed. The goal is to have drivers keep both hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

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