A statewide law that went into effect July 1 bans texting while driving, a particularly dangerous distraction to drivers, according to AAA Michigan.
The organization reports texting while driving is especially dangerous because it results in all three forms of distracted driving, including:
Visual - Takes your eyes off the road.
Cognitive - Takes your mind off the road.
Manual - Takes your hands off the wheel.
Area law enforcement officials said they haven't written many tickets for the offense, which is a primary one that allows police to pull a driver over who they observe texting. The first offense carries a $100 fine and the second and subsequent ones will cost the offending driver $200.
One of the reasons there haven't been many citations is the difficulty in detecting the offense, according to Capt. Ken Vanderlinden of the Escanaba Department of Public Safety.
He said it's difficult to determine if a person is texting or simply dialing their cell phone; it's still legal to make cell phone calls.
On the positive side, Vanderlinden said they haven't had a real problem with texting drivers because the law has been well received and public education on the issue has made people more aware of the dangers.
That said, AAA reports 60 percent of teenagers have admitted texting while driving, a disturbing number that will hopefully be reduced with the new law and education.
In an effort to reduce the number of young, inexperienced drivers from texting, AAA offers a distracted driving course, one of which was offered last weekend in Escanaba.
Donn Davidson, AAA's lead driver's education instructor set up a course that simulated a driving situation that has hazards along the way. The course included cones that represented different hazards, such as an oncoming car or pedestrian or a fixed object like a tree or building.
Youths 12 to 18 years old were invited to run the course in a golf cart while texting. Davidson said the purpose of the event was to raise awareness among young drivers and future drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.
Hopefully, the new law banning texting while driving and education efforts like the one AAA offers will make the streets and highways safer for all drivers.