Fewer distractions should save young lives

Published 7:52 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Senate recently took a step forward for the safety and security of our students by approving a bill to ban young drivers from using cell phones while behind the wheel.
The legislation 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. 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.
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.
Thirty states ban all handheld and hands-free cell phone use by novice drivers generally 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 measure has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
The intersection of immortality and inexperience is a dangerous one — one that is difficult for our children to cross sometimes. Limiting the use of cell phones for young drivers gives our students the best chance to get through that intersection safely.
I encourage all southwest Michigan drivers not to use their cell phones while driving and make sure nothing distracts them from paying attention to the road. A distraction could be a fatal mistake.

Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, represents the 21st District, which includes Berrien and Cass counties and most of Van Buren County.