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TTFN: Text no more

Michigan lawmakers pass bill banning texting while driving; new law takes effect July 1

May 05, 2010 - Alex Arnold considers himself lucky.

The Goodrich High School senior was driving a friend's car over the summer when his phone went off in his pocket. He glanced down for an instant to read the screen and his car swerved over the curb, completely blowing out the right front tire.

"I felt so bad," said Arnold.

"Especially since it wasn't even my car. Since then I've made sure to never pull out my phone when I'm on the road."

Michigan lawmakers are pushing for people to have the same driving phone-free attitude as Arnold.

On April 30 Governor Jennifer Granholm officially signed legislation to ban texting while driving. If pulled over by police, drivers could get a ticket and have to pay a $100 fine for a first offense. Any offense after that would cost $200 The Michigan Senate passed the bill by a 31-6 vote on Jan. 26, and the state House passed the bill by a 82-22 vote on April 28. The law will go into effect on July 1.

Paul Scott, state representative of the 51st district which includes Grand Blanc, Fenton, Linden, and Goodrich, voted in favor of the bill. "Studies have shown that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving intoxicated. The bill really sends the message that the government is serious about keeping motorists safe on Michigan highways."

Sgt. Pete Burkett, Oakland County Sheriff Office, Brandon Substation also thinks the bill is a good idea.

"I think it's a common sense law, texting while driving is very dangerous."

However, Burkett claims that it's hard to prove when crashes are caused from texting while driving, most people put the phone away before officials get to the scene.

"I've only seen one accident that was confirmed to be from texting. It was last year and it was a one-car, fatal crash. The driver had hit a tree and his phone was found in his hand when we arrived." But under the new law, police officers can pull over anyone they see texting while driving.

"It may be difficult to confirm when crashes are caused from texting, but we see people texting and driving on a regular basis. They've got one hand on the wheel and are looking off the road to read and type. Before, when we saw that there was nothing we could do, but after July 1 if we see a driver texting we can pull them over and ticket them on the spot."

To help reinforce the ban on texting, at least one cell phone company is taking a proactive role in keeping drivers safe.

Laura Bommarito of Verizon Wireless Zone store in Bueche's Plaza, 250 N. Ortonville Road, Suite A, said several systems are in place to help curtail texting and driving.

"Right now about 90 percent of our customers are interested in texting phones," said Bommarito. "About 55-60 percent of the phones have internet access—within a year or so most of the phones will be smart phones. Many of the parents that come in now are well aware of the child using the phone for texting and take that responsibility out of their hands."

Bommarito said Verizon has a phone systems in place and available for usage controls that will allow texting during certain hours, or can block texting all together.

Verizon offers Textecution that recognizes that when a cell phone is traveling faster than 10 mph, Textecution disables the phone's texting feature so text messages cannot be sent or received. Once the phone is at rest, or traveling at a speed slower than 10 mph, the texting feature seamlessly becomes available for use, and text messages may be sent or received.

"Many adults and kids are addicted to texting," said Bommarito. "Verizon offers ways to control the texting in a safe and responsible manner." wirelesszone.com/ortonville.

Goodrich High School senior Kevin Hergenreder agrees the texting ban is a good thing.

"I got in a small fender bender a couple months ago because I was reading a text message," said Hergenreder.

Hergenreder is just thankful that the crash wasn't worse. "I know a lot of people who've gotten into much worse accidents because they were texting, but they like to keep it on the down low. No one likes admitting that they text and drive, even if that's the case."

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