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Letter: It's time to make it illegal to drive distracted in Michigan

We’ve all been there, we’re trying to get to our destination and the car in front of us is weaving, not using their turn signal when they change lanes and not maintaining a consistent speed.

When you finally have the chance to pass them safely, it becomes very clear what’s going on in the car. You start to think the person has had too much to drink and gotten behind the wheel.

But they aren’t drunk — they are texting.

April is national Distracted Driver Awareness month, and getting in your car in 2021 means more responsibility than ever before. It’s no longer just putting on your seatbelt, putting your car in drive and heading off to your destination. It's remembering that the car you are driving is capable of changing your life or the life of another because you aren’t focused on driving, but on a text message or phone call.

For years, law enforcement and loved ones across the state have begged people to put their phones down and drive. But that hasn’t happened.

Sadly, there were more traffic deaths in 2020 nationally than ever before — and last year marked a year with less driving than any in recent memory. Distracted driving likely played a role in those traffic crashes.

This epidemic of car crashes caused by distracted driving has driven the Michigan Legislature to take action. As part of a bipartisan effort, the Michigan House has three bills pending (HBs 4277, 4278 and 4279) that would ban having your phone in your hand to text, call or surf the web while driving. This ban includes video calls while driving and recording TikTok videos.

To be clear: The goal isn’t to pass a law just to pass a law — we think this is an important step to stop distracted driving. We are talking with those who have been directly affected by distracted driving, parents and loved ones of those injured or killed by a distracted driver, and law enforcement who have to both go to the scene of these tragedies and enforce the laws that we pass and write.

Good public policy takes time and thought, and that's why many states are having conversations about how to stop distracted driving.

It’s time to pass laws that make it clear how serious the state of Michigan is about putting a stop to the deadly crashes that result from prioritizing what’s on your phone over what’s on the road.

State Rep. Graham Filler, R-DeWitt, 93rd House District

State Rep. Mari Manoogian, D-Birmingham, 40th House District