Sky Roperti has one less worry thanks to the new Kelsey’s Law — no teen driver on a probationary license can legally chat on a handheld cell phone while behind the wheel. “I think it’s a good law because I don’t want any of my friends, or me, to get into car crashes while using them,” said Sky, 15, a Dexter resident, who hasn’t yet earned her learner’s permit.
The ban, called “Kelsey’s Law,” was created in memory of Sault Sainte Marie youth Kelsey Raffaele, who died in a traffic accident while she was talking on a cell phone with a friend. A recent poll found 40% of U.S. teens admitting they’ve been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger.
Moms, dads and teens may feel the bite of fines or court costs related to violations of the law. Sky’s father said he loves the new regulation despite any potential drain on his wallet. “I would be paying it (the monetary penalties to the court) initially, but eventually my child will be paying,” said Joseph Roperti, 43. “If they can afford a phone they can afford a penalty.”
According to the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, teens are more likely to die in auto accidents than from any other cause. Distracted driving is one of the main reasons for traffic crashes among all drivers. “Every time I think of texting and driving I think about a mom who ran off the road last year. It was a one car rollover and she died,” said Director of Community Engagement for the Washtenaw County Sheriff Office Derrick Jackson. Jackson thinks the new legislation may educate both teens and adults about the seriousness of distracted driving. For more information, visit kelseyslaw.com.