Ban on teen driver cell phone use begins today

BIG RAPIDS — Starting today, teen drivers across Michigan can be cited for using their cell phones behind the wheel.

Kelsey’s Law, signed into law in January, bans cell phone use for anyone driving on a level 1 or level 2 graduated driver license in Michigan.

The new law is named in honor of Kelsey Raffaele, 17, of Sault Ste. Marie, who died in a cell phone-related automobile crash in 2010.

The new law allows for primary enforcement by police, meaning drivers can be pulled over solely for not complying with the law. A violation will result in a civil infraction. No points will be assigned to the driver’s record.

Supporters of the legislation say cell phones and other distractions exacerbate a young driver’s inexperience and lead to more traffic crashes, which are the No. 1 killer of teens.

“Any time we can reduce distraction for teen drivers, the better off we are as society,” said Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell. “Data shows teens are more likely to be involved in crashes due to cell phone use, so that’s a distraction we should be removing.”

Purcell anticipates Kelsey’s Law will be easier to enforce than 2010’s statewide texting ban for driver’s of all ages. The texting ban also allows for primary enforcement, but officers have had trouble enforcing it, Purcell said.

With both laws in effect, teen drivers theoretically could be ticketed for both using a cell phone while driving and texting while driving, but the chance of that happening is slim, Purcell said.

Drivers will not be punished for using a vehicle’s integrated hands-free phone system or for using cell phones to report an emergency.

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