Shelby police prepared to enforce hands-free distracted driving law

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby-Utica News | Published June 27, 2023


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — A new law involving cellphones and driving might have people changing their minds about using their phones by hand while driving later this week.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed hands-free distracted driving bills into law June 7 that will make it illegal, starting June 30, for motorists to drive while holding their cellphones to talk, text, use their cameras or more.

Michigan law already addressed texting and driving, but one of the new bills added watching or recording videos and using social media, plus other uses, to the list of barred behaviors for people operating motor vehicles.

The law makes exceptions to hold a cellphone while driving for emergency personnel, such as police and firefighters, while performing their official duties, and for employees or contractors responding to a public utility emergency. There is also an exception for members of the public to hold their phones while driving to call 911, a health care provider or other emergency services agency to report an emergency.

Drivers may use hands-free technology to use their cellphones. Hands-free systems are generally voice operated and can provide mapping for trips, make calls and change radio stations, for example.

The new law makes it illegal to use a cellphone by hand while temporarily stopped at a red light or stop sign, which the new law by definition still considers to be operating a vehicle. The new law does not consider being lawfully parked to be operating a vehicle.

Sgt. Mark Benedettini, from the Shelby Township Police Department, said via email that distracted driving has been a big issue in the community for quite some time.

“We have seen a large uptick over the years of crashes that were caused by distracted driving. This law will help to reduce those types of crashes, along with injuries and even deaths associated with distracted driving crashes,” he said.

Shelby Township police will be enforcing the new law.

“Our officers on the streets will be enforcing this law once it takes effect. We will also be participating with the Michigan State Police and other local jurisdictions throughout the year and have officers on special details specifically looking for distracted drivers,” he said.

Utica Police Chief Matthew Kaluzny could not be reached for comment before press time.