Using Hands-Free Cell Phones While Driving – Update January 2020


By Maurice Cox, Injury Prevention Specialist, St. Mary Mercy Hospital, Livonia; Chair, MTC Injury Prevention Committee

Over the last few months, there has been a lot of misinformation on new legislation on the use of cell phones. Though we each may have varied opinions on the degree of restrictions, we all are aware of the hazards of cell phone use and distractions in general while operating a vehicle.

Several claims have emerged as to changes that were to take affect January 1, 2020. The sources vary but include word of mouth and social media.

The claims have been that as of Jan 1st, 2020, there would be fines of $1000 and up to 3 years jail time.

At least in Michigan and Ontario Canada, this is not true. Regardless of each individual’s opinion on the changes, I still believe I should present the details as the laws stand today. This information is for Michigan and Ontario only.

In Michigan, there are currently 3 house bills that are attempting to modify the existing Act 300 of 1949 Michigan Vehicle Code.

House Bill 4181 was introduced in February of 2019 and had passed the House on Dec 11, 2019. It was then sent to the Senate. As of January 8, 2020, it was “REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE.” The bill has not moved in committee as of January 20, 2020.

It proposes two changes to the law known as, Kelsey’s Law. Specifically, to Sec. 602c (1) and Sec 602c (3) Subsection (1):

The first change proposes (Sec. 602c (1)) to add “or an individual who is under the age of 18” to the already stated “an individual issued a level 1 or level 2 graduated license.”

The second change (Sec 602c (3) Subsection (1)) is to remove “does not apply to an individual using a voice-operated system that is integrated into the motor vehicle.”

This has not passed the Michigan Senate as of today.

House Bill 4198 was introduced in Feb 2019, passed through House Ways and Means committee with substitute H-5, and is waiting to be read for a second time and voted on.

It proposes several changes to Sec 602b that really can be summarized into a couple areas.

First, they want to include ‘view’ing to the existing ‘not read, view, manually type or send…’ and change the rest of the sentence from …’a text message’ to “an interactive communication, or access, read, or post to social media site.”

These will include any computer that is not being used for navigation that is “affixed to the motor vehicle.”

Even though the first section does not include commercial vehicles, the same changes were made for the next two sections that specifically pertain to commercial vehicles.

They do define Interactive Communication further down as a text, image based, text message, instant message, or electronic mail.

House Bill 4199 was introduced in Feb 2019, passed through House Transportation committee, and is waiting to be read for a second time and voted on.

Other than every “shall” will be changed (Sec 602b) to “must”, there are also changes made to the fines for offences.

The first violation would be increased from $100 to $250, where any further violation increases from $250 to $500.

While there may a slight difference of opinion on the wording, intent, or other areas, there is one point each bill has left intact, ‘to allow the use without penalties for reporting hazards, accidents, or safety/wellbeing concerns’.

None of these are laws yet.


*As for Canada…laws and fines vary by provinces and territories…

Ontario (since we are next to it) as of June 2019

First conviction $615 -$1000 3 demerits 3-day suspension
Second $615 -$2000 6 demerits 7-day suspension
Third $615- $3000 6 demerits 30-day suspension

Though some fines and suspensions vary in the other areas, there are no incarcerations.

As a side note, there are separate provisions for causing injury or death due to cell use that may include jail time in all areas of Canada and in Michigan…but that’s another story.