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Phone ban may be on the way for teen drivers

A new piece of legislation under consideration by Michigan lawmakers would make it illegal for teens to drive while using a cell phone. The initiative would target drivers with Level 1 or 2 graduated licenses. If approved, the law will be known as "Kelsey's Law," a teen from Sault Ste. Marie who died because of a distracted driving accident.

Young drivers are surprisingly supportive of the measure, which is designed to halt distracted driving. Many Michigan teens say they already refrain from using their cell phones while they are driving. They also say that they see driving as an increase in responsibility, and they try to limit distractions while they are operating their vehicles.

Although this attitude may be indicative of a cultural shift in the younger generation, many teens are still concerned that the law wouldn't change the bad habits of their older counterparts. Distracted drivers of any age and experience level can be dangerous on the road, experts say.

Still, some young drivers favor cell phone use in vehicles for important matters. They argue that adults sometimes must use their phones for business calls or family issues while driving. Older drivers are more likely to effectively multitask, they say.

The law would make cell phone use while driving a primary offense and civil infraction, allowing police officers to stop the driver for no other reason. So far, nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted full bans on handheld cell phone use for all drivers. A large majority of states, 30 in all, prohibit drivers younger than 18 from operating a vehicle while using a cell phone.

Lawmakers say that the bill would include exemptions to accommodate traffic accident reporting, medical emergencies and crimes. Also, voice-integrated technologies such as the OnStar system would be permitted under the law. The bill is currently under consideration by the state House of Representatives.

Source: Niles Daily Star, "Teens react to cell driving ban," March 25, 2012

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