Senate approves teen driver cell phone ban

LANSING — The Michigan Senate approved legislation on Thursday to prohibit young drivers from using cell phones while behind the wheel. The measure is called “Kelsey’s Law,” in honor of Kelsey Raffaele, a Sault Ste. Marie teenager who was killed in a car accident in January 2010 while talking on her cell phone.

“As a father, my heart goes out to Kelsey’s family for their loss. The loss of a child is a terrible thing, especially when the tragedy was preventable,” said Sen. John Proos. “I supported this measure to help save the lives of our children by limiting unnecessary distractions to inexperienced drivers.”

Multiple studies have shown that teen drivers are much more likely than any other age group to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported. According to an MLive Media Group analysis, one in five drivers using a cell phone during crashes since 2002 were teenagers.

Senate Bill 756 would ban an individual with a Level 1 or 2 graduated license from talking on a cell phone while driving. The law would be a civil infraction and a primary offense, meaning a police officer could stop someone for the offense without any other reason.

“The intersection of immortality and inexperience is a dangerous one and sometimes our kids don’t make it,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “We should be helping ensure our children are as safe as possible, which will give them the best chance to grow in experience.

“I strongly encourage all young drivers not to use their cell phones while driving. A distraction could be a fatal mistake.”

Nine states and the District of Columbia have banned handheld cell phone use for all drivers. Thirty states and the District of Columbia also ban all handheld and hands-free cell phone use by novice drivers, generally those drivers younger than 18 or with probationary licenses.

The bill includes exemptions for reporting a traffic accident, a medical emergency or a crime. It would also allow a driver to use a voice-operated system that is integrated into the vehicle, such as OnStar. The bill has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.


Editor’s Note – Audio comments by Sen. Proos are available on the senator’s webpage at Click on “Podcasts.”