Law keeps teens off phones while driving; starts Thursday

March 27, 2013

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Beginning Thursday, teen drivers with Level 1 or Level 2 licenses under the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving. Known as Kelsey’s Law, the restriction was named in honor of Kelsey Raffaele, 17, of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., who was killed in a cell phone-related crash in 2010.

The new law allows for primary enforcement by police, though in most cases it will be enforced after the detection of another moving violation. A violation of the law will result in a civil infraction to be determined by the local jurisdiction with fines up to $100. No points will be assigned to the driver’s record and drivers will not be punished for using a vehicle’s integrated hands-free phone system or for using cell phones to report an emergency.

A public campaign, called Put Your Phone in Park, accompanies the new law. It will include billboards, posters and brochures to encourage compliance. Many groups are assisting with promoting the law to ensure parents and teen drivers are aware of the new, potentially life-saving driving restriction. The campaign is supported through federal traffic safety funds from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP).

“Born from tragedy, Kelsey’s Law will help novice drivers focus solely on driving,” said Michael L. Prince, OHSP director. “The largest contributing factors to teen traffic crashes are inexperience and immaturity. Driver distractions only exacerbate these situations so we hope teens will remember to put their phone in park.”

“As a crash re-constructionist and newly elected sheriff I started to follow Kelsey’s law late last year,” said Sheriff Kim Cole. “I believe anything we — law enforcement and/or lawmakers — can do to prevent traffic tragedies we must do. Any death is tragic but when a child’s life is lost it send shock waves throughout the entire community. As a law enforcement officer and father to a teen driver I applaud the State of Michigan and Kelsey’s family in their efforts to protect our most precious resource, our children.”

Cole said his department’s deputies are versed with the new law and are committed to keeping our roadways safe.

In 2011 in Michigan, 52 people were killed and 452 were seriously injured in crashes involving drivers ages 17 and younger. Of those fatalities, 16 were a 14-17-year-old driver.

Level 1 and Level 2 license holders are between 14-years, 9-months-old and 17-years-old.

The Michigan Legislature approved Kelsey’s Law at the end of the 2012 legislative session. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Howard Walker (R-Traverse City) and supported through the efforts of Kelsey’s mother, Bonnie.

“This law means a lot to me, both as governor and as a parent of a young person who is learning to drive,” Snyder said. “I appreciate the efforts of Kelsey’s mother, Bonnie, and family who have worked tirelessly to get the message out about the dangers of distracted driving. We should be doing everything we can to make sure beginning drivers are focused on learning how to drive. I believe this law will help them gain that experience while reinforcing their responsibilities behind the wheel.”

“Operating a motor vehicle is a divided attention activity,” said Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola. “What that means is that while surveying the road ahead, checking for signs, gauging following distance, regulating speed, adjusting interior temperature and music, a driver must safely operate a vehicle. To remove the distraction that a cell phone causes to a beginning driver helps the driver maintain focus on operating the vehicle. A crash can occur in the fraction of seconds with lifelong consequences. Kelsey’s Law is one step to make our highways safer.”

Cell phones and other distractions exacerbate a young driver’s inexperience and lead to more traffic crashes, which are the top killer of teens.

Michigan adopted a statewide ban on texting-while-driving in 2010.

SB 756 is now Public Act 592 of 2012 and will take effect in late March.

For more detailed information on legislation, visit www.michiganlegislature.org.

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This is the statute in the Michigan Vehicle Code that goes into effect on the 28th:

257.602c; added Individual issued level 1 or 2 graduated license; use of cellular telephone prohibited; exceptions; violation as civil infraction; local ordinance; section known and cited as “Kelsey’s Law.”

(1) Except as provided in this section, an individual issued a level 1 or level 2 graduated license under section 310e shall not use a cellular telephone while operating a motor vehicle upon a highway or street. For purposes of this subsection, “use” means to initiate a call; answer a call; or listen to or engage in verbal communication through the cellular telephone.(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to an individual who is using a cellular telephone to do any of the following:

(a) Report a traffic accident, medical emergency, or serious road hazard.

(b) Report a situation in which the person believes his or her personal safety is in jeopardy.

(c) Report or avert the perpetration or potential perpetration of a criminal act against the individual or another person.

(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to an individual using a voice-operated system that is integrated into the motor vehicle.

(4) An individual who violates this section is responsible for a civil infraction.

(5) This section supersedes all local ordinances regulating the use of a cellular telephone by an individual issued a level 1 or level 2 graduated license while operating a motor vehicle in motion on a highway or street, except that a unit of local government may adopt an ordinance or enforce an existing ordinance substantially corresponding to this section.

(6) This section shall be known and may be cited as “Kelsey’s Law”.

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