Texting and driving is illegal in Michigan, but local and state law enforcement agents and experts say the law is difficult to enforce.
Public Act 60 of 2010 prohibits operating a motor vehicle while reading, typing, or sending a text message on an electronic wireless device.
"It is not just the cell phone alone that distracts drivers, but it seems to be the most common. These citations have been issued throughout the county but, are far more prevalent in the higher traffic areas as expected," Detective Robert Losey of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office said.
Losey said distracted driving is considered anywhere a vehicle is traveling, however just how many citations have been issued in Washtenaw County is hard to calculate.
"Since the law was enacted in July 2010, deputies at the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office have issued roughly 10,545 electronic violations for all moving violations," Losey said. "There are several more traffic citations that are issued on a daily basis, through hard copies which unfortunately take longer to track down."
Losey said there have been 152 distracted driver crashes in the county since the law went into effect. In comparison, from October 2007 through July 1, 2010, there were 485 distracted driver crashes in the county.
According to the Michigan State Police, there have been 12 distracted driver crashes in Dexter during the past three years, of those none were due to cell phone use. In Chelsea, there have been seven distracted driver crashes.
Sgt. Keith Flores said the texting and driving statute is difficult to enforce, especially with the advancements in smart phones.
When an officer pulls over someone for texting and driving, which is a civil infraction, the phone can’t be seized for proof.
"We do enforce it, but its one of those things that you have to clearly articulate the fact that you know someone is texting and driving," he said.
Since technology has advanced since the law was passed, drivers could be using their phones to scroll for music, view a webpage or view a map.
"Somebody may just be dialing their phone," Flores said. "It's one of those things that you want to be completely sure before you stop someone."
While flawed, the law is a good starting point, Chelsea Police Chief Ed Toth said.
“It is a very good place to start,” he said. “Distracted driving is very dangerous.”
In Michigan last year, drivers were reported to be distracted in 3,986 crashes, and using cell phones in 821 crashes.
But, the actual numbers of deaths, injuries and accidents are likely even higher, said Dominique Matich, a traffic safety specialist for the Traffic Improvement Association, because police don't report distracted driving or cellular use in an accident unless the driver reports it as a factor.