Bill to End Cell Phone Use by Teens While Driving Stuck in House

The Michigan Capitol is shown at twilight Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009, in Lansing, Mich. Lawmakers continue work on budget bills that deal with a $2.8 billion shortfall before an Oct. 1 deadline. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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A rally was held at the Capitol Tuesday, in memory of Kelsey Raffaele; only 17-years-old when she was killed in a car accident near Sault Saint Marie in 2010. "She had been talking on her cell phone when she went out to pass another car and misjudged the distance of an on-coming vehicle," explained her mother, Bonnie Raffaele.

Police, lawmakers, and organizations from across the state support a bill which would restrict anyone with a level one or two drivers license, typically teens who have been driving between six months and a year, from using a cell phone while driving.

The bill has been held up in the house since it passed through the senate in March, and supporters are asking everyone to write to House Speaker Jase Bolger asking him to get the bill moving.

"If we can save just one life by passing this law, which doesn't cost anything to pass, if we save one life it's worth it."

Representative for House Speaker Bolger, Ari Adler says before lawmakers restrict cell phones for teen drivers, they need to decide how far they are willing to make those restrictions: "Do you reach so far as to start banning everything is cars? We see many people that are driving while they're eating, while they’re reading, while they're doing make-up," said Adler.

Comparing this bill to the texting behind the wheel law which he says backfired: "We are often hearing and finding that people often have their phones in their lap, so they're looking down and away from the road more," continued Adler.

But Raffaele argues, spotting people talking on a phone should be easy, since it would be up against their ears.

Prepared to come back in January to try again if the bill falls through this year: "I will do it, and I'll come back even harder the next time," said Raffaele.

Adler also says the reason the bill has been in the house so long is because it was sent for further consideration by the House Committee on Transportation. Before it's sent back to the house, those representatives have to approve it, but they say it's taking them a while to address their concerns, and they don't know yet if they will come to a vote before time’s up at the end of the year.

There are already similar laws passed in 32 other states, including our neighbors Ohio and Wisconsin who passed their laws at the same time Kelsey’s bill has been sitting in the house.

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