More Michigan Distracted Drivers Will Be Ticketed with Launch of 'Operation Ghost Rider'

Tracy Stengel
Photo byCleyton Ewerton/Unsplash

Police are on the lookout for multitasking Michigan drivers.

Driving while distracted can be deadly and it seems like it’s happening everywhere. A driver eating a sandwich. Another applying lipstick. One fiddling with the radio. But the most common distraction is cell phone use — no surprise there.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the Michigan State Police, in conjunction with county sheriff’s offices and local police departments, are kicking off Operation Ghost Rider today. It is funded by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) and coordinated by the Transportation Improvement Association (TIA.)

“Distracted driving continues to be a top traffic safety concern on our roads,” said Jim Santilli, CEO of TIA and chairman of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Commissions’ Distracted Driving Action Team, in a press release. “We can save lives by simply keeping our eyes on the road and hands on the wheel at all times. We hope Operation Ghost Rider will further educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving.”

Here’s how Operation Ghost Rider works. Law enforcement will be in unmarked vehicles. When they see a distracted driver, they radio it in. Then, a fully marked law enforcement vehicle will make the traffic stop. The unmarked units are simply spotter vehicles — they will not be pulling anyone over.

“Distracted driving crashes are 100 percent preventable. As drivers, we must do better,” said F/Lt. Mike Shaw of the Michigan State Police. “We will continue to educate motorists and hope that personal accountability will help decrease distracted driving. But we also know enforcement is key.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, motorists using hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to get in an accident that causes injury. Drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash.

“On average, a driver takes their eyes off the road 5 seconds to send or read a text,” said Sheriff Anthony Wickersham. “At 55 mph, that’s equivalent to driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”

The TIA’s preliminary numbers for 2022 show there were 15,551 motor vehicle crashes with distracted drivers in the state of Michigan. Of the crashes in 2022, 57 people died and 5,905 were injured.

In today’s digital world, making and answering calls and texts while driving can be tempting. If you find it irresistible, consider putting your phone on silent and out of your line of vision, like in your glove compartment, until you reach your destination.

Distracted drivers may face a fine of $100 for their first offense, and a $200 fine for subsequent violations. Avoid costly tickets and dangerous crashes by focusing on one thing while operating a motor vehicle — driving. Keep in mind the lyrics to “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors, “Oh, keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.”

Do you see a lot of distracted drivers in your area? What are they usually doing? I’d love to read about your experiences in the comments.

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Tracy explores the world with a positive eye, an open heart, and a sprinkling of humor. Without laughter, she would be lost.

Onsted, MI

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