Michigan’s New Distracted Driving Law Takes Effect June 30

In an effort to mitigate the risks associated with distracted driving, Michigan recently enacted legislation meant to deter and punish instances of distracted driving. The new law, which takes effect June 30, 2023, makes holding and using a mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle illegal. Michigan is the 26th state in the United States to pass a hands-free driving law, signifying the growing national consensus around the importance of focused driving.


The journey to this legislation commenced in early May when the Michigan House and Senate passed House Bills 4250, 4251, and 4252. These bills sought to amend portions of the Michigan Vehicle Code, intending to curtail the surging number of distracted-driving mishaps and fatalities.

Texting while driving was already prohibited in Michigan. However, the no-texting law was instituted during an era when mobile phones were in their relatively nascent stage of adoption. With the current legislation, all mobile phone usage while driving is effectively deemed illegal, reflecting the pervasiveness of such devices and our current understanding of the risks of distracted driving. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 3,500 lives were lost due to distracted driving in 2021.

Understanding the New Law

At its core, the new law restructures Michigan’s Vehicle Code to make using a mobile electronic device for any task illegal, including, but not limited to, making or receiving telephone calls, sending, reading or receiving text messages, viewing, recording or transmitting videos, and accessing, reading, or posting to social networking sites.

Importantly, the law designates holding or using a cell phone while driving as a primary offense, allowing an officer to pull over and ticket someone solely for this violation. However, the legislation provides that police cannot search a driver based on this violation alone.

The Cost of Distracted Driving in Michigan

The legislation imposes penalties for distracted driving, ranging from monetary fines to community service.

    • For the first violation, drivers face a $100 fine or 16 hours of community service.
    • A second violation will result in a $250 fine or 24 hours of community service.
    • If three violations are committed within three years, the driver will be ordered to complete a driver-improvement course.

Stiffer penalties apply to commercial vehicle or school bus drivers, with the first violation attracting a $200 fine or 32 hours of community service, and subsequent violations drawing a $500 fine or 48 hours of community service. Notably, if an at-fault driver is found to be using a cell phone during a crash, any civil fines are doubled.

Potential Liability

A potential secondary cost is the fact that if a driver is involved in a crash causing injury or death while in any way in violation of the new law; the court at trial will instruct the jury that if the driver violated the new statute that the violation creates a prima facie case from which a jury may draw an inference of negligence. In other words, the burden will shift to the user of the mobile electronic device to show that he / she was not negligent. In a normal circumstance, without violation of a statute, the burden of proving negligence is on the Plaintiff, not the Defendant. Violation of the new statute will shift the burden of proof and make it easier for the Plaintiff to convince the Defendant driver was negligent.


The law includes several exceptions. Law enforcement, first responders, and other emergency workers are allowed to use a cell phone while performing their official duties. Similarly, anyone texting or calling 911 to report an emergency is exempted. All drivers, except those with a level 1 or 2 graduated license, may use their device in hands-free modes.

Drivers are allowed to utilize their GPS, provided it is hands-free. Mobile phones can serve as navigation systems if operated in a hands-free mode, for instance, by mounting it on the dashboard or using voice commands. Generally, using voice commands or hands-free modes to use mobile devices is allowed.


As we navigate the digital age, including on our roads, laws must keep pace with technological progress. Michigan’s new distracted driving law is an attempt to improve road safety in the era of smartphones. Get ready to go hands-free on June 30.

This alert serves as a general summary and does not constitute legal guidance. Please contact us with any specific questions.

Fraser Trebilcock Shareholder Gary C. Rogers is recognized as one of the top civil defense attorneys in the area of automobile related cases, and he has co-written Michigan No-Fault Law-The Insurers’ Perspective, a handbook for handling claims under Michigan’s No-Fault Automobile legislation. Gary can be reached at grogers@fraserlawfirm.com or (517) 377-0828.

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