Teens react to cell driving ban

Published 4:00 pm Sunday, March 25, 2012

A piece of legislation making its way through Lansing right now would make it illegal for young drivers to use a cell phone while behind the wheel.
The Michigan Senate approved the measure on March 15. The measure is called “Kelsey’s Law,” in honor of Kelsey Raffaele, a Sault Ste. Marie teenager who died in a car accident while talking on her cell phone.
The measure would affect young drivers such as16-year-old Maggie Hoff, a Niles High School sophomore who got her license in November. Hoff is in favor of the bill.
“I do think it is a good idea because lots of accidents are caused by using cell phones and driving. It would make the roads a lot safer,” said Hoff, who added she doesn’t use her cell phone while driving.
While Hoff is in favor of the bill, she believes it is unfair to single out young drivers in the cell-phone ban. The bill would only affect individuals with a Level 1 or 2 graduated license.
Hoff said people of all ages and experience levels should be prohibited from using cell phones while driving.
“I think adults are probably better at driving and talking than a young driver because they have more experience, but it is still dangerous no matter how much experience you have,” she said. “It absolutely is a distraction.”
Sixteen-year-old Taylor Weckel said she doesn’t use her cell phone while driving. Weckel, a junior at Berrien Springs, got her driver’s license in November and is in favor of the bill.
“When you are new to driving, you are taking on a new responsibility and you should have the least amount of distractions as possible,” Weckel said. “It definitely is a good idea.”
Unlike Hoff, Weckel said experienced drivers should be allowed to use a cell phone while behind the wheel.
“Some people have to use their phone on the road because of work or other things,” she said. “I wouldn’t be in favor of a full ban.”
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.
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.