Texting and driving is illegal in Michigan, but local and state law enforcement agents and experts say the law is difficult to enforce.
Public Act 60 of 2010 prohibits operating a motor vehicle while reading, typing, or sending a text message on an electronic wireless device.
There have been 43 texting and driving citations so far this year in Macomb, 199 in Oakland and 185 Wayne, according to Michigan State Police.
Michigan State Police Sgt. Mike Church said the texting and driving statute is difficult to enforce, especially with the advancements in smart phones since the law was put in effect in 2010.
When an officer pulls over someone for texting and driving, which is a civil infraction, the phone can’t be seized for proof. “It makes it difficult,” Church said.
And since technology has advanced since the law was passed, drivers could be using their phones to scroll for music, view a webpage or view a map. “The only thing (the law) seems to prohibit is text messaging,” said Church.
While flawed, the law is a good starting point, Church said. “It is a very good place to start,” he said. “Distracted driving is very dangerous.”
In Dearborn, there were 23 traffic accidents involving distracted driving in 2011; in three of those, the driver responsible was using a cell phone, according to the Traffic Improvement Association of Michigan. In 2010, 21 such crashes were reported; and in 2009, there were 19. Five of those accidents each year included use of a cell phone.
In Michigan last year, drivers were reported to be distracted in 3,986 crashes, and using cell phones in 821 crashes.
But, the actual numbers of deaths, injuries and accidents are likely even higher, said Dominique Matich, a traffic safety specialist for the TIA, because police don't report distracted driving or cellular use in an accident unless the driver reports it as a factor.