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Published: Wednesday, 4/21/2010

Michigan House votes to ban texting while driving


LANSING - Using a cell phone to send text messages or e-mail while driving is one step closer to becoming illegal in Michigan.

The state House yesterday passed the key bill in a package that calls for enforcing a ban starting July 1. The main bill passed the House by a 74-33 vote.

The Senate has passed the legislation, and Gov. Jennifer Granholm plans to sign it once it gets to her desk.

That process will be delayed until a companion bill dealing with how texting violations are reflected on driver's records is finalized in the Legislature.

That final bill could be passed soon.

The legislation calls for texting to be a primary offense, meaning police could pull over and cite motorists just for texting.

Fines would be $100 for a first offense and $200 for each offense after that.

No points would be added to driver's records.

"We have to change driving behavior in Michigan," said Rep. Lee Gonzales (D., Flint), a key sponsor of the texting ban.

"This is a significant step for public safety."

Previous versions of the legislation considered in Michigan made texting a secondary offense. That meant police would need some other reason to stop a vehicle.

However, the Senate voted last month to make texting a primary offense and the House followed suit.

Police have told lawmakers that making the violation a secondary offense would hinder their ability to cite motorists in time to prevent accidents.

But some lawmakers opposed making texting while driving a primary offense.

Rep. Shanelle Jackson (D., Detroit), who voted against the main bill, questioned whether making texting while driving a primary offense would make it easier for racial profiling to take place in Michigan.

The federal government has sought to crack down on distracted driving, urging states to pass tough laws against the practice.

More than half the states have adopted measures that ban at least some drivers from texting. Several more are in the process of passing new laws addressing it.

Texting while driving is classified as a primary offense in at least 15 states.

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