A public information campaign will kick off Wednesday to help get the word out on a new law for teen drivers.
Starting Thursday, teen drivers with Level 1 or Level 2 licenses under the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program are not allowed to use a cell phone while driving.
Known as Kelsey's Law, the restriction was named in honor of Kelsey Raffaele, 17, of Sault Ste. Marie, who was killed in a cell phone-related crash in 2010.The Put Your Phone In Park information campaign will be presented during the Michigan Traffic Safety Summit. The campaign will include billboards, posters and brochures to get the word out on the new law. 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."
Violations of Kelsey's Law will be a civil infraction with fines up to $100 as well as possible additional costs up to $100. There are no points associated with this civil infraction and it does not impact status in the GDL program.
Exemptions to the law include emergency situations and hands-free devices.
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, which is now Public Act 592 of 2012 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 Raffaele. Bonnie spoke in Lansing in support of the bill last year.
??Keeping her memory alive and keeping the kids safe. I know she's saved so many lives since she has passed away, I can't count them," said Bonnie during a legislative session in Feb. 2012.
We asked UpNorthLive's Facebook fans if they think the law goes far enough, if they think all Michigan drivers should be banned from using the cell phone. Many are weighing in on the debate.
wrote: " No one should be talking while driving. People need to get back to basics and pay attention to the road- if you just HAVE to take that call pull off, or let it go to voicemail and return the call when you can get off the road. It's not just teens or new drivers!"left this comment: " Yes, I don't want to be involved in any car accident that is preventable, especially due to phone use. I have changed my habits now that I have a teen driver...must lead by example." wrote: " My nephew was killed a month ago by a 17 yr old who was texting while driving Nothing will bring him back to us but if laws like this prevent other deaths, even one, it's the right thing to do." left this comment: " Distractions cause accidents so make sure you make eating and driving with kids in the car illegal too." You can get in on the conversation by going to UpNorthLive's Facebook page. You can also weigh in by voting in the online poll below and leaving your comments.