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Published: Saturday, 10/15/2005

Bills could disconnect teen drivers, cell phones

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Lyndsey Shroyer, 17, a senior at Bedford High School, admits she uses her cell phone while driving if it's important. Lyndsey Shroyer, 17, a senior at Bedford High School, admits she uses her cell phone while driving if it's important.
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LANSING - Several state legislators have a message they want to deliver to mobile Michigan teens:

Shut up and, like, drive.

The Michigan House Judiciary Committee this week unanimously passed a bill that would smack a $50 fine on those under 18 who get caught talking on their hand-held cell phones while trying to drive.

And the reaction from Michigan teens?

Whatever.

"I've seen adults driving [while] on their cell phones too, and they'll pull out in front of people and pretty much cause accidents when they're driving because they're not paying attention," said Lyndsey Shroyer, 17, a senior at Bedford High School who has been driving for about a year.

The bill, whose primary sponsor is a Republican legislator and former assistant prosecuting attorney in Oakland County, is among a handful under consideration in both houses of the Michigan Legislature seeking to curb cell-phone use by drivers of all ages.

One bill under consideration by the House Transportation Committee would make it illegal in most circumstances to use a hand-held cellular phone while driving.

Another bill in the Senate Transportation Committee would allow use of the devices in the "slow" right lane on Michigan highways, but prohibit their use in the "fast" or passing lanes.

Neither bill has yet made it out of committee.

Miss Shroyer admits to occasionally talking on her cell phone while driving, but only "when my parents call me on it or if it's something important."

She said the ubiquitous devices are "like a necessity" for those of her generation and that taking them away, even if only while driving, "would not be a good thing. I use that more than I use my house phone."

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for 15 to 20-year-olds in the United States, killing almost 64,000 youths between 1995 and 2004.

A 2001 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, "Driver Situational Awareness and Carphone Use," reported that drivers engaged in wireless conversations were unaware of traffic movements around them.

John Moore, a retired principal who continues to teach driver's education after 27 harrowing years on the road, said he's not sure if the bill targeting talkative teens is unnecessarily discriminatory.

"Beginning drivers don't see things as much as [experienced] drivers see. I don't know that they would be any more distracted or not" than their older counterparts with one hand on the wheel and another to their ear, Mr. Moore said.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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