Michigan State Police goes undercover to catch distracted drivers

“Drive like the police are always around”
Published: Apr. 24, 2023 at 6:50 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - When you see police on the road, you tend to be on your best behavior. That’s why Michigan State Police is going undercover to catch distracted drivers.

Driver inattention is the leading cause of most crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Uniformed Michigan State Police officers will be in unmarked cars, looking for distracted drivers. Once they catch a distracted driver in the act, an officer in a marked vehicle will be alerted to pull them over.

They hope this undercover operation will have all people driving like the cops are always watching.

“They’re looking (at their phone), and all of a sudden something makes them look to the left, they see us, and then they put their phone down and their hands are on the wheel. We see that all the time,” said Lt. Rene Gonzalez, with Michigan State Police. “Drive like the police are always around.”

He said Michigan State Police do this operation in different regions, on different months, so you never know when an undercover officer could be watching. Distracted driving covers a lot more than you might think. You can find a full list of what MSP classifies as “distracted driving” here.

“Looking for that texting while driving, people not paying attention, crossing over the centerline, that type of thing,” said Lt. Gonzalez

While you can’t get ticketed for eating while driving or reaching around in the backseat specifically, you can get ticketed for careless or reckless driving.

“So anything you’re doing in the vehicle, if we think that it could hurt people we can issue citations for it,” said Lt. Gonzalez

Some Mid-Michigan drivers said they see distracted drivers, all the time.

David Wood is a CAT employee and is on the road for work quite often. He said he sees distracted drivers multiple times a day, with a few of them almost hitting him on multiple occasions.

“I’m sitting here driving a 12,000-pound truck like if you don’t see me here, you’re not gonna win that. I’ll probably walk away fine and you won’t,” said Wood.

While undercover patrols might increase the odds of getting a ticket, some feel it’s a needed measure.

“You know distracted driving can kill somebody. We all do it from time to time but I mean, it’s very dangerous,” said Bobbie Leary, a Jackson Resident.

Law enforcement said they utilize undercover vehicles to catch distracted drivers as well. They don’t typically patrol in unmarked cars (just to catch distracted drivers) due to staffing. However, when they do, they catch quite a few distracted drivers and speeders.

The Ingham County Sheriff’s office said distracted driving is an “epidemic,” and they appreciate MSP’s efforts.

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