During Distracted Driving Awareness Month, deputies are “strongly encouraged to be on the lookout for distracted drivers and to follow through with enforcement action if a motorist is stopped for a violation,” according to Sgt. Mike VanDenBosch of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.
The Michigan State Police reported a 57 percent increase in distracted driving cases from 2016 to 2017 and a 67 percent increase in fatalities from such crashes.
Law enforcement agencies across the state are participating in a national distracted driving mobilization period from April 11-15. Drivers who are texting, reading text messages, using handheld GPS devices or any other actions considered “careless driving” will be pulled over.
“When you are behind the wheel, keep your phone out of reach,” said Michael L. Prince, Office of Highway Safety and Planning director. “Studies show that texting while driving takes your attention off the road more than any other activity. We have to do everything possible to get those numbers trending in the opposite direction.”
There were 20,115 distracted driving crashes in Michigan in 2017, along with 72 fatalities in those crashes.
As a reminder to drivers, it is illegal to read, manually type or send a text while driving. There are exceptions for reporting crashes or other emergencies.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety states drivers can be distracted for as long as 27 seconds after using voice-to-text technology. If a driver is going 25 mph, that means the driver could go nearly three football field lengths while being distracted.
“Most drivers believe that if their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel, then they are focused on the drive,” said Adrienne Woodland, AAA spokesperson. “But research proves that there are hidden dangers when using a cellphone or in-vehicle technology. Mental distractions last longer than you think and can cause a dangerous crash.”
Nationally, 3,166 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2017. In the past six years, nearly 10 percent of all fatal crashes involved a distracted driver.