Can You Be Fined For Using Your Phone at a Michigan Stoplight?
There seem to be a lot of questions about Michigan's updated Distracted Driving Law that went into effect on June 30, 2023. Here are the plain and simple truths about what you can and can't do in your car while on the road in the Mitten.
What's Considered a 'Mobile Electronic Device' in Michigan?
I know what you're thinking: 'Mobile Electronic Device' leaves much room for interpretation. Here's how the State of Michigan defines it:
Mobile electronic device” means an electronic device that is not permanently installed in a motor vehicle, including, but not limited to, a device capable of text messaging, voice communication, entertainment, navigation, accessing the internet, or producing email.
The definition of 'mobile electronic device' excludes medical devices and some CB radios.
What Is the Definition of 'Operating a Motor Vehicle' in Michigan?
Now that you have a pretty clear idea of what an electronic device is, when is it that you are 'operating a motor vehicle'? The language in the updated Bill is clear:
“Operate” means to drive or assume physical control of a motor vehicle on a public way, street, road, or highway, including operation while temporarily stationary because of traffic, road conditions, a traffic light, or a stop sign. Operate does not include a motor vehicle that is lawfully parked.
Anytime you are on the road behind the wheel of a moving vehicle in Michigan, you are operating it. The only acceptable and legal time to be on your phone or using a similar electronic device is when the vehicle is lawfully parked.
That means no using your phone 'for just a quick sec' at a light, or a fleeting glance while at a stop sign. If you are driving you cannot engage with your phone, dashboard, or GPS for more than a single tap or swipe.
This law will take some time to get used to and Michigan law enforcement has been slow in enforcing these distracted driving instances as a primary reason to pull you over, but that time is rapidly approaching. Your first offense will be $100 and they go up from there.
A press release that coincided with the Bill's passage outlined an expanded definition of distracted driving in Michigan. Below are some common practices in cars that could now be a reason to stop you.