Gov. Rick Snyder signed a new law Tuesday prohibiting cell phone use by new drivers.
Starting in late March, “Kelsey’s Law,” named after Kelsey Rafaelle, a 17-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie who died following a cell phone-related collision in 2010, will ban cell phone use in any capacity (with the exception of emergencies) for those driving with a Level 1 or 2 license.
Fully licensed Level 3 drivers are exempt from the law, though it will remain illegal for any individual to text and drive.
“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.
Violations of the law, expected to cut down on distracted driving, will result in civil infractions charged to the offending persons. A driver found neglecting the law will face a $100 fine with the additional possibility of having his or her license suspended or revoked.
“I think, overall, it will make things safer,” said senior Collin Welsch, Battle Creek native. “Half of the time people on their phones are swerving and making things more dangerous. Pretty much trying anything to reduce that should be helpful.”
Studies have provided support that any form of distracted driving increases the risk for accidents, but reducing risky behavior through legislation was met with reservations by some.
“Honestly, I think kids will do it regardless of the law,” Dewitt freshman Kenny Barber said. “We still have drunk drivers, and that’s even more dangerous.”
Such skepticism appears to be well-placed. Numerous studies performed by the Highway Loss Data Institute indicate that cell phone prohibitions have been largely ineffective in decreasing collisions.
“The laws aren’t reducing crashes, even though we know that such laws have reduced hand-held phone use, and several studies have established that phoning while driving increases crash risk,” said HLDI’s president, Adrian Lund.
A 2012 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology might have an explanation for this data mismatch. The study concludes that though there is a higher crash risk for those using cell phones while driving, individuals who typically engage in such dangerous driving methods tend to engage in risky driving behaviors free from cell phone use as well. Those who more frequently used their cell phones were found to drive more aggressively and had a larger quantity of self-reported driving violations than the average driver.
“While I didn’t support this specific bill, there is no doubt that keeping young drivers more focused on the road is a good thing,” said Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant. “I hope that parents will continue to have discussions with their young drivers about the importance of keeping their hands on the wheel and staying safe on the roads.”