Mitchel Kiefer should have turned 21 on March 27, 2019, but the Michigan State freshman never made it to his 19th birthday.
Mitchel was rear-ended by a distracted driver on Sept. 19, 2016, forcing him into oncoming traffic on I-96. His vehicle was hit by a truck and Mitchel was killed instantly.
So, instead of celebrating Mitchel’s 21st birthday with him, Mitchel’s family facilitated a press conference with the Detroit Police Department to introduce a new legislation to end distracted driving in the State of Michigan.
“Today this is where we celebrate Mitchel’s 21st birthday,” said Steve Kiefer, Chairman of The Kiefer Foundation as he displayed a picture of Mitchel’s gravesite.
“It doesn’t get any easier. It’s the hardest thing that a parent can ever go through. It was an event that it turns out is defining our lives and we decided as a family to try to do something in Mitchel’s memory to basically change the world.”
Played at the press conference was a video clip of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State address in which she articulated her support of a hands free legislation in the State of Michigan.
While 47 states currently have no-texting laws in place, they are virtually unenforceable. What has been proven to change driver behavior is hands free laws.
“(Sixteen) states actually have hands free laws on books,” said Kiefer. “In these 16 states, the number of crashes, the number of fatalities, and the number of cell phone-related crashes are down significantly. This is really common sense. We need to have hands free laws here in the state of Michigan.”
The Detroit Police Department is in full support of a hands free law, recognizing the devastating effects of distracted driving. Detroit Police Chief James Craig cited multiple examples at Wednesday’s press conference.
“On Wednesday March 13th of this year, around 7:45 in the evening, a distracted driver who was texting on his phone struck a 77-year-old female pedestrian crossing McNichols near Hope Drive,” said Craig.
“When the officers arrived they found the driver, a 22-year-old man, near the rear of his vehicle in a state of panic. And all he could say was, ‘I just killed someone.’ Later, the women did in fact succumb to her injuries.”
Unfortunately, those scenarios are playing out more and more as drivers are using their phones behind the wheel.
“We’re looking at another awkward trend this year for distracted driving where over 70 people died and over 7,000 were injured in more than 19,000 distracted driving crashes,” said Lieutenant Mike Shaw.
“We’ve made it very clear to the troopers on the road that distracted driving has to stop – it’s an epidemic.”
The Kiefer Foundation wants to stop that epidemic, launching a nonprofit, grassroots movement to put a hands free law in place by July of 2019. The initial goal of that campaign is to get 100,000 letters supporting hands free legislation within the month of April.
“The month of April is National Distracted Driver Awareness Month,” said Kiefer. “We’re hoping in this month of April to get 100,000 letters to your representatives showing support for a bipartisan bill that will end distracted driving through hands free legislation.”
To learn more about the Hands Free Michigan movement and to submit a letter, visit handsfreemichigan.org.