Cell phone ban for young drivers approved

MARQUETTE – Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation Tuesday prohibiting young drivers from using cell phones while behind the wheel.

The measure introduced by Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, 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.

“The death of Kelsey is an unimaginable loss for her family, friends and community. We must do all we can to prevent similar tragedies from occurring,” Walker said. “This law is an important part of the solution because it helps remove unnecessary distractions for inexperienced drivers.”

Walker said 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.

Public Act 592 of 2012, previously Senate Bill 756, bans an individual with a Level 1 or 2 graduated license from talking on a cell phone while driving. The law is a civil infraction and a primary offense, meaning a police officer can stop someone for the offense without any other reason.

“Unfortunately, teenagers don’t always listen when their parents tell them what to do, such as hanging up the phone while driving. That’s when tragedies happen,” Walker said. “Now parents will have the law backing them up. This is no longer just good advice for young drivers.”

The law includes exemptions for reporting a traffic accident, a medical emergency or a crime. It also allows a driver to use a voice-operated system that is integrated into the vehicle, such as OnStar.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.