St. Joseph County to step up enforcement on distracted drivers

Effort part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month initiative

The St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Office is preparing for the beginning of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month by launching a high-visibility enforcement effort to discourage distracted driving.

The initiative, which will last throughout April, will target anyone caught texting, talking on a hand-held device, using a hand-held device for navigation, or engaging in any other hands-free violations while driving.

Michigan’s Hands-Free Driving Law, which took effect on June 30, 2023, states a driver cannot hold or support a phone or other device with any part of their hands, arms, or shoulders. Even if a cell phone or other device is mounted on your dashboard or connected to your vehicle’s built-in system, you cannot use your hands to operate it beyond a single touch.

The sheriff’s office reminds drivers that they are putting themselves and others at risk by being distracted. Distracted driving caused 15,441 confirmed car crashes, resulting in 5,905 injuries and 57 fatalities in 2022, according to Michigan Traffic Crash Facts. The most common crash type for distracted-driving crashes is rear-end crashes, which accounted for 48.4 percent of all distracted-driving crashes in 2022.

Under Michigan law, a driver can be ticketed up to $210 for a first offense and up to $310 and one point on their driver’s license for a second offense.

“Distracted drivers put all roadway users at risk,” Undersheriff Jason Bingaman said. “During the April initiative, the St. Joseph County will be stepping up enforcement by stopping and ticketing anyone who is caught texting or committing other hands-free law violations while driving.”