Study says fewer people are using their phone when driving. What do metro Detroiters think?

Posted at 6:39 AM, Apr 11, 2024

(WXYZ) — April is Distracted Driver Awareness Month, and one of the most distracted items in your car is your phone.

There is good news though, a new report says fewer people in Michigan are looking at their phones while driving.

The study comes from the nonprofit "Governor's Highway Safety Association" and Cambridge Mobile Telematics.

It found an average reduction of 9.5% in time spent on cell phones when driving, and I went out to speak with drivers to see if they think the numbers match up.

I went to two locations to talk to people: An EV charging station in Livonia and a gas station in Dearborn.

What struck me is that those at the EV station said they have seen fewer people on their phones, however, those at the pump say they still see it happening often.

"It's so easy to tell when people are distracted when they are ahead of you, because you see them moving from side to side," Sue McIlhiny said.

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In June, Michigan's hands-free driving law went into effect, and Larry Ealy tells me he's stressed it to his grandson.

“I just taught my grandson how to drive. That was one of the main things I stressed to him, not to use your phone while you are driving, so I think it is not enforced like it should be," he said.

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“So you think enforcement needs to be stepped up?” I asked.

“I think so but I am sure there more things that are more urgent to enforce than that," he said.

If you do get caught, the first offense is a $100 fine, the second a $250 fine and the third within a three-year period will land you in a court-ordered driver improvement course.

“Do you see a lot of people talking on their phone?” I asked Lyft driver Robert Brown.

“Yes I see that too. We have the technology people, that is why it is up there on your dash, but yeah I see it everyday," he said.

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“Do you think the law has been working?” I asked Uber driver Andrew Stallworth.

“No, because I see a lot of young people still with their phone in their hand, and I think it is a very dangerous thing," he said.

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However, those driving EVs are seeing it differently. Dominic Swasey depends on his phone for work. He's a nurse practitioner.

“People that I work with, they all say I can’t, even with the doctors I work with they tell me I can’t answer my phone right now, you gotta reach me later because I got to use hands free now," he said.

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He and others charging up say they have noticed less people on their phone while driving, even if it's due to advanced technology, or fear of getting a ticket.

“I have a car that actually actively tells me to put my phone down if it sees it there is a camera inside the front of the car," Swasey said.

“Do you think it’s because of the law that was enacted about a year ago?” I asked Dimond Holliday.

“Yes, that for sure has something to do with it, you don’t want to get tickets, pulled over, yeah," she said.

"Would you be surprised if I told you that there actually has been a decrease according to a new study?” I asked Stallworth.

"I don’t believe that, not based on what I see in this area," he said.

The same study estimates the law prevented more than 2,400 crashes, 11 deaths, 1,400 injuries and $98 million in savings for drivers.

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