TIA and Law Enforcement Agencies Join Forces for Operation Ghost Rider

Goal is to Reduce Distracted Driving Deaths and Injuries

Contact: Jim Santilli, CEO, (248) 334-4971

Design By: Johnathon Putrus Jr., Dakota High School

TROY, Michigan, April 28, 2024 – Law enforcement officers from state, county, and local agencies will begin conducting Operation Ghost Rider throughout Michigan on Monday. 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 in danger,” 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.

Last year, 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 a dashboard or connected to a vehicle’s built-in system, a driver cannot use their hands to operate it beyond a single touch.

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.

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.

Through a $40,000 grant provided by State Farm earlier this year, TIA challenged Michigan high school students to design a distracted driving awareness billboard to remind the public of the hands-free law.

The selection committee chose a design created by Johnathon Putrus Jr., a student at Dakota High School, and Brandy Cavanaugh, a student at Mercy High School.

Putrus’ and Cavanaugh’s designs were seen on billboards throughout Michigan during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, which is designated as April. More than 10 million impressions were made.

Operation Ghost Rider was revealed at a press conference in Macomb County in 2017. Several mobilizations will be scheduled during 2024.