Ghost Riders Search for Distracted Drivers
Contact: Jim Santilli, CEO, (248) 334-4971
TROY, Michigan, October 23, 2023 – Law enforcement officers from the Michigan State Police, county sheriff’s offices, and local police departments will begin conducting Operation Ghost Rider today. The goal is to reduce distracted driving deaths and injuries. This lifesaving initiative is coordinated by the Transportation Improvement Association (TIA).
“Despite knowing the risks, distracted drivers continue to put themselves and the innocent people around them at risk,” said Jim Santilli, CEO of TIA and chairman of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Commissions’ Distracted Driving Action Team. “Sadly, many people have lost a loved one to a completely preventable behavior. We can all do our part by keeping our eyes on the road and hands on the wheel at all times.”
Operation Ghost Rider uses unmarked spotter vehicles, which contain a law enforcement passenger. When the spotters observe a distracted driver, they radio a fully marked law enforcement unit to initiate a traffic stop.
“Even with all the conversation and education around the new hands free law, we are still seeing distracted driving,” said F/Lt. Mike Shaw, Public Information Officer of the Michigan State Police. “We know enforcement is key to preventing risky driving behavior, and efforts like Operation Ghost Rider are an important part of that enforcement.”
Participating agencies include the Auburn Hills Police Department, Chesterfield Township Police Department, Clinton Township Police Department, Macomb County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, Shelby Township Police Department, Sterling Heights Police Department, Troy Police Department, and Utica Police Department.
Drivers who use a hand-held device are 4 times more likely to get into a crash serious enough to cause injury according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash.
“As a former fatal accident investigator, I know distracted driving causes tremendous injury and death on our highways,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard. “We are looking to do all we can with our partners to reduce that danger.”
According to TIA, crash reports for 2022 indicate 57 persons were killed and 5,905 were injured in 15,441 motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in the state of Michigan.
In June, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law a bill making it illegal to manually use a cell phone or other mobile electronic device while operating a vehicle on Michigan roads. Under the law, 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 their dashboard or connected to their vehicle’s built-in system, a driver cannot use their hands to operate it beyond a single touch. Operation of a motor vehicle includes being stopped at a light or in traffic, but does not include being legally parked.
As a result, drivers cannot manually do any of the following on a cell phone or other electronic device while driving: make or answer a telephone or video call; send or read a text or e-mail message; watch, record, or send a video; access, read, or post to social media; browse or use the internet; or enter information into GPS or a navigation system.
Violations include: 1st violation, $100 fine and/or 16 hours of community service; 2nd or subsequent violations, $250 fine and/or 24 hours of community service; 3 violations within a 3-year period, complete a driving-improvement course.
Fines are doubled if a traffic crash occurs and the at-fault driver was holding or manually using a mobile device while operating the vehicle.
Violators can also be cited for careless driving, which is a three (3) point offense and a civil infraction punishable by a fine.