Distracted driving is bad but House bill may not be best cure

Everybody agrees that distracted driving is a deadly practice responsible for thousands of traffic accidents on Michigan roads and dozens of fatalities each year. In fact, according to one recent study, in the past 10 years there have been more than 34,000 distracted driving crashes in Michigan. About 9,000 of these have involved the use of a cell phone. The Michigan State Police, meanwhile, report 42 fatalities linked to distracted driving in 2016, up from the 28 in 2015.

So it should come as no surprise that state lawmakers are taking aim at the popular mobile devices in a newly proposed bill that would, if approved and signed into law, prohibit the use of the hand-held devices for any purpose while driving.

While it’s currently illegal to text while driving, this new law would expand that to include talking on a cell phone or using a smartphone to access the internet for email checks, Facebook logins and the such. Hands-free activities using bluetooth technology would still be legal.

“I do support the bill, because if you’re stopped at a traffic light, look to your left and right, and all the people are on their cell phones,” Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, told The Detroit News for stories published Wednesday. “It’s an epidemic with these devices.”

House Bill 4466 is being discussed now in committee. No votes have been taken and additional discussion and debate is expected going forward before formal action is taken.

Finding ways to reduce the number of distracted driving incidents should be something everyone wants. We support this concept but enforcement would seem to be challenging. Are police going to pull over everyone they think is on a cell phone? How will officers driving from a distance behind, let’s say, or meeting a vehicle on a roadway at a closing speed of 120 mph, determine that with any accuracy?

We hope these and other considerations are part of the debate and discussion in the State House before votes are taken.

Distracted driving is a bad thing. We’re just not sure HB 4466 is the way to stop it.