Tough Questions: Is Michigan's texting while driving law broken? - WNEM TV 5

Tough Questions: Is Michigan's texting while driving law broken?

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A local family says there's no teeth to the Michigan law banning texting while driving.

The law has been on the books since 2010, but you still see drivers doing it.

Paul Paquin was in the car with his wife, Irene, about 5 miles from their home when glass started flying.

A pickup truck hit the passenger's side of Paquin's car at about 55 miles per hour, right where his wife of 57 years was sitting.

Paquin lost the woman his family lovingly called St. Irene on Nov. 30, 2010.

A police report would later show the driver was texting.

Investigators estimate a window of about a minute between a text, the crash and that 911 call made by the driver behind the wheel of the pickup.

Jerry Joseph spent 30 days in jail, then served probation for the accident that took Irene Paquin's life.

How can this be?

WNEM started digging, and discovered something startling about Michigan's texting while driving law.

It allows for up to a year in jail if there's an accident, but it's considered a misdemeanor, even when someone dies.

Under the current law, there allegedly wasn't enough wrongdoing to elevate this accident to a manslaughter charge, which carries a 15-year felony.

The statewide texting while driving ban has been in effect since July 2010. The law was tested with this accident, but still nothing has changed.

Not only is the law lacking in punishment, by all accounts, but it is just plain hard to enforce.

TV5 spent nearly two hours riding along with Michigan State Police to see how troopers look for distracted drivers.

Since the law went into effect, agencies across the state have issued about 2,300 tickets, as reported to the state police.

Trooper Jim Moore hopes the threat of being pulled over is enough for people to put down the phone.

Since that deadly texting accident, prosecutor Byron Konschuh has called on lawmakers and his fellow prosecutors to push for tougher penalties.

Konschuh would have liked to see a 15-year felony charge for the texting accident where Irene Paquin was killed. The same penalty as if she was killed by a drunk driver.

He says distracted is distracted, whatever led up to it.

Paul Paquin and his daughter wonder if another family will have to suffer and lose a loved one for this law to change.

Every day they wonder how their lives might be different if Joseph didn't pick up the phone and didn't send that text.

More than 30 states ban texting while driving.

The laws, and the severity of the punishments, vary quite a bit state by state.

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