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Posted on Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 12:55 p.m.

Teen's death prompts mom to seek ban on cellphone use for novice drivers

By Cindy Heflin

Bonnie Raffaele’s 17-year-old-daughter, Kelsey, died while talking on her cellphone and trying to pass another vehicle on a two-lane road. Her best friend, driving behind her, witnessed the crash.


The crash scene after Kelsey Raffaele's car and a Dodge Durango crashed Jan. 24, 2010.

MLive Media Group photo

Now, Raffaele, of Sault Ste. Marie wants to make sure other young Michigan drivers don’t suffer the same fate, MLive reports. She has teamed up with state Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, and state Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, on a bill that would ban phone use by new drivers.

The bill prohibits cellphone use by drivers with a Level 2 graduated license, when 16-year-olds can drive without an adult. A violation would be a civil infraction, but a fine has not yet been set.

An earlier attempt to pass a similar bill failed. The odds may be against her, but Raffaele is determined to keep trying.

“Believe me, if it doesn’t make it through, I will be at it again,” she said. “I’m a momma on a mission

Raffaele’s story and Kelsey’s are part of the MLive Media Group’s series on distracted driving. The statistics are heart wrenching. Distracted driving kills. In 2010, there were an estimated 3,092 deaths in crashes involving a wide range of driver distractions, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in January.

In Washtenaw County alone, 701 people were involved in distracted driving crashes from 2008 to 2010, and 115 people were involved in cellphone-related crashes. Two people died.

Take our poll:

See a video of Raffaele talking about the crash below:


Candis Hale

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 10:45 a.m.

Maybe I am misunderstanding this.. Please correct me if I am! This law prohibits level 2 drivers who driver WITHOUT a parent to not use cellphones while driving? How are we going to keep that under control? Pull every teenager over!?


Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 1:02 a.m.

When I was learning to drive in the 70's, my father wouldn't even let me drink a can of coke while driving! Besides we all learned on stick shifts and had to keep our hands free. Now back to the phone issue: Get a Bluetooth earpiece.

Ron Granger

Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 6:49 p.m.

"Will a law that bans cell phones really change the root casue of this issue? No." It will save lives. Guess you didn't read the entire article: "In Washtenaw County alone, 701 people were involved in distracted driving crashes from 2008 to 2010, and 115 people were involved in cellphone-related crashes. Two people died."

Angry Moderate

Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 11:39 p.m.

So, tens of thousands of people drive while talking on the phone every day, and only one dies per year? Are you going to ban everything that has a death rate that low?


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

Unfortunately this is not the last time, it doesn't matter if they are young or have been driving for 40 years, so sorry for your loss.


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

When I'm operating a motorized vehicle I don't answer my phone when/if I hear it go off. If I have the chance I'll pull over into a parking lot then answer it; if not I just let it ring.


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

&quot;A Purdue University research team that studied five years of motor vehicle accidents in Washington State concludes antilock brakes and airbags don't minimize accidents or injuries because those systems may encourage more aggressive driving. Fred Mannering, a Purdue professor of civil engineering, led the study. The results, which are bound to be controversial with auto makers and safety experts, say the innovations designed to improve safety also make drivers less vigilant.&quot; (go here for the complete article: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. I know this is true - I've seen it. I have had the morons tailgating me so close on I-94, at 70-80 mph, that I can't even see their HEADLIGHTS in my rearview mirror. OK, so these technologies (ABS and airbags) add a false sense of security to operating a vehicle, especially at high speeds and less than perfect conditions. Add to that, the nitwits who drive with one hand on the wheel and the other texting or emailing or holding the phone, and what do you get?

Jon Saalberg

Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 2 p.m.

You will never stop people from talking or texting on cellphones while driving - even the police do it. What would stop it is if cars were designed to prevent people from talking on cellphones while the car is in motion - I am certain that that could be engineered without too much trouble - as to whether society would ever tolerate that is a different matter.


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 11:48 a.m.

Many folks are distracted by electronic gadgets, phones, ipods, etc. Cell phones should not be used while driving, and joggers should not be using ipods while out running.


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 11:34 a.m.

Its parents responsibility, not the state. Parents can tell their kids no cellphone use in the car. They won't listen? What makes you think they'll listen to a state law then? You can check call logs to enforce it, or even get one of those phones that doesn't operate when the car is moving. We don't need more laws, we need more responsible citizens.


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

Maybe we should only ban drinking and driving for inexperienced drivers... That makes about as much sense as this. How about a ban for all drivers because ALL people drive poorly when talking on the phone.


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 4:19 a.m.

About 10 years ago, my friend was killed on a snowy two-lane road while attempting to pass another vehicle. Guess what, no cell phone was involved. Perhaps the teen should not have been driving if they were unable to make a distance judgement or go the speed limit..


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 4:07 a.m.

I am somebody, who without someone else in the car, or without being on the phone: has a tendency to fall asleep at the wheel, or get tunnel vision. I used to have a hour+ commute to Flint every morning for classes, and would call my mom in Tennessee in the AM, and talk to her until I arrived safely. Being on the phone kept me awake, and focused. I dont blame the cell phones at all, I blame the irresponsible people on the roads. The people who dont pay attention, dont check blind spots, speed, do under the speed limit, cut in and out of traffic ect. Cell phones have nothing to do with them.

Ann English

Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 1:04 a.m.

Talking on a cell phone, whether hand-held or not, engages the mind apart from the road ahead. The other person isn't in the car with you and has no idea of what the drivers around you are doing. But you yourself must be aware of the vehicles in front of, behind, and on both sides of you as you drive.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:37 p.m.

Not everyone is safe all of the time in every situation???? Sounds like we need MOAR laws! rabble rabble rabble....


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 11:02 p.m.

This is a parenting problem, not something that needs another law on the books. Don't people have anything to do except create government rules, regulations, and bureaucracies? We had a revolution against the British because they were oppressive????? Do you think it's more oppressive or less today? Be honest with yourself. I can hardly keep up with all of the new rukes and regulations and all of the fines that go with them.............

Tom Joad

Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 10:50 p.m.

Your only business behind the wheel is driving the car. A vehicle in motion demands 100% concentration. There is simply no room for extraneous distractions.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

Is there already a no cell phone while driving law on the books? Yesterday, I saw a guy eating while driving. Maybe the real answer is $5/gal gas. That might keep enough folks off the road. Distracted driving is a national epidemic. Too many people think getting to or causing an accident won't happen to them. Those same people don't take driving seriously. Wait until we get another inch of snow during morning or evening rush hour.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:43 p.m.

There are more than enough rigorous studies now that show that any cell phone use, whether hand-held or hands-free, reduces the reaction time of a driver as much as legal intoxication. I long ago lost count of the number of foolish and dangerous actions on the road I've seen committed by people who chose to be absorbed by their mobile device, rather than pay attention to the potentially lethal activity in which they were engaged, driving. I agree with the recent NTSB recommendations. Ban ALL use of cell phones while driving. It has become a public health emergency.


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 6:27 a.m.

I believe you meant to say that cell phone use INCREASES the reaction time.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:47 p.m.

There are these same studies that show the same thing with radio use, talking to people in the car, eating, drinking, or basically doing anything other than driving alone in the car with the radio off.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

Maybe it's just me, but does she think this law would have stopped her daughter from talking on the cell while driving? If so, perhaps it would have been effective to give her child appropriate boundaries (vis a vis, a rule not to use her cell while driving). It seems to me that she gave her child driving privileges, and a cell phone, but she did not give her rules regarding cell phone use in the car. Either that, or she did give her rules regarding cell phone use in the car, and the daughter disobeyed. Which brings us back to my first question. Seems like a legislative solution to a parenting issue (in this case). Unfortunately, neither will bring this poor girl back.

Atlas Shrugged

Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.

It is a horrible incident, but drewk, manbearpig, and others, are right. We don't need more of a nanny state, more laws, particularly when there is a &quot;higher authority&quot; -- parents -- who should be setting and enforcing the rules and making sure there are consequences for failing to follow the rules before a tragedy like that that has befallen this family occurs.


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 12:09 a.m.

The term &quot;nanny state&quot; should be used only for occasions where government steps in to protect you from yourself only. Driving while talking on a phone or texting, endangers OTHERS in a severe manner. It is NOT a case of &quot;nanny state&quot; unless you think that laws prohibiting driving while drunk are &quot;nanny state&quot; also. The public safety IS the business of the state.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:46 p.m.

And who is the parent who tells the 50-something guy in a sporty car who nearly rear-ended me because he was yukking it up on his cell, or the 30-something woman in a minivan with a cell phone plugged into her ear who nearly flattened me in a crosswalk, or... Who keeps them in line?


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:41 p.m.

It isn't only teenagers using their cell phones while driving. In fact while I am driving I observe more grownups talking on them than teens. But maybe I am doing more driving during school hopurs.It seems like at least 7 out of 10 cars I see are driving with a phone stuck to their ear. I foolowed 1 car from Saline to the East side of A2 with their phone stuck to their ear the whole time.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

Banning cell phones is an unrealistic goal. Especially with hands free equipment in most new cars there's no way a cop would be able to tell, let alone prove, you were on a cell phone. It's no different than banning radio use or talk radio while driving. Heck sometimes on my way to work I'm listening to some talk radio station and find myself in a zombie like state listening to what they're saying. Furthermore, to me this sounds more like an inexperienced driver than a cell phone causing a crash. With our without a cell phone it seems like this crash would have happened. Passing on a snowy road with another car in that lane is not good judgment no matter if you're on a phone or not. I think, just in general, drivers education needs to be ramped up. It's just far too easy to get a license. Especially for people who get their license after the age of 18 when &quot;drivers ed&quot; becomes a non-requirement. Rather than try and ban every distraction in the car I think it would be helpful to look at our states, and every state's, drivers ed programs and see how we can make them better. You only need something like a 70% on the written test to pass.....I don't know about the rest of you - but if someone is making a mistake on 3 out of every 10 things that happen on the road I'm not OK with that.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:25 p.m.

It is silly to try and place a ban on novice drivers only. How will a cop be able to differentiate a 15 year old from a 21 year old driving at high speeds?? if you're going to place a ban on cell phones, do it for everyone! I'm not saying I'm for it, but parents should also be more proactive in making sure their teens are being responsible. I know my mother did!

Former A2rite

Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:24 p.m.

The loss of a child is the worst and I understand the mothers campaign. It's also sad to hear the mom say: "If I had known the danger, I could have saved my daughter's life." There has been talk for YEARS about cell phone use while driving and the huge, potential dangers which can result...whether it's involving texting or talking. Honestly, I think they need to ban cell phones while driving period, but even worse (and very pathetic of me), it would be tough for me to follow it! I'm an a 44-yo mom of a soon-to-be teenage driver.

Former A2rite

Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

...Definitely young drivers should be banned from driving while on the cell! Require they pull over in a safe place (i.e., parking lot) to make the call.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:21 p.m.

It''s too bad that using a cell phone while driving (as dangerous if not in some cases MORE dangerous that impaired driving) doesn't have the cachet that drunken driving (of which, of course, I DON'T approve ) does! With drunken driving one has the &quot;fun&quot; of punishing the horrible monster that did this, possibly convicting them of &quot;vehicular homicide&quot;! One never admits one has or does sometimes drive with an over .08 alcohol content, and so it's always the evil other fellow or gal. With cell phone use, everyone seems to do it (even where it's illegal, the laws are a joke) and no one takes it seriously since it might be YOU who are endangering everyone, or perhaps your son or daughter. My heart goes out to the parents in this case and I wish them luck; but no one really--sadly--cares about cell phone use and texting while driving.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:17 p.m.

Many states already have a law that says you cannot talk or text on a cell phone while driving. We need one in Michigan since cell phone drivers/users are the cause of too many accidents.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:15 p.m.

We wouldn't need &quot;nanny state&quot; laws if people didn't behave like 3-year-olds. I want what I want when I want it, and I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. If you want to wrap your own personal vehicle around a tree, or a rock, or plunge into a river, or whatever I personally could care less, just don't take anybody else with you. When you endanger me because are a spoiled, entitled, selfish, egomaniac then I support 'nanny state' laws.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

Couldn't agree more!


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.

Distracted youths should be banned from driving and using cell phones, until they're old enough to be distracted while driving and using cell phones.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

WHY was she trying to pass while on a phone? the accident proves she was a poor driver, being on a cell phone at the same time made her a worse driver.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 7:42 p.m.

An inexperienced teen driver attempted to pass another vehicle on a snowy two lane road while talking on a phone. No offense, but it sounds like terrible judgment is to blame, period. I think most people, regardless of their age, would know better than to try a stunt like this. Will a law that bans cell phones really change the root casue of this issue? No. We have to accept the fact that there are dangerous, stupid drivers everywhere. Sorry if that sounds insensitive, but I'm just being direct.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.

could not agree more


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

i have long felt teens and texting while driving would lead to the end of my life... I even thought about how at my the trial, I would be looking down (or up) and watching sobbing teens and ignorant parents pleading for mercy for their kid that ran me over &quot;she is a good kid&quot; sob sob Not a chance for mercy -- - this issue needs to be treated the same was drinking and driving was 25 years ago by schools/parents/police. It was during the mid-80s MADD and SADD got some clout and forced the hands of all of us to get serious about this; now it needs to be done with texting until there is REAL education and REAL consequences, this trend will get worse pass all the laws you want, they wont help. too complicated, too tricky, legal issues of looking at a phone w/o a warrant, police having better things to do -- and if caught, its only a ticket - not like DUI where u lose license THIS STARTS with parents educating their teens to the dangers and taking away the car if the violate the terms... then the schools have Assembly's and the have the wrecked cars on display ... bumper stickers ... and finally - real juice in the terms of violating the law Otherwise folks, I will come back from my inevtable death at the hands of your teen driving and I will haunt you forever


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 1:59 a.m.



Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 10:18 p.m.

lumberg -- I love this post! You are spot on!!


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

&quot;THIS STARTS with parents educating their teens to the dangers and taking away the car if the violate the terms... &quot; Unfortunately, they more than likely are mirroring their parents behavior when they start driving and think it's okay to be doing other things while driving.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 7:27 p.m.

Distracted driving, whether caused by phones, food, radios, hot beverages, texting, passengers, or whatever else you care to pin it on, is only a symptom of the underlying condition: Americans do not take driving seriously enough. It's just that simple. Prior to the graduated licensing laws, obtaining a driver's license through the Secretary of State was only slight more difficult than getting plastic toy that Lucky the Leprechaun had buried in his box of breakfast cereal. Nowadays, I understand it isn't much harder. Countries such as Germany or Finland take licensing seriously. The driver's ed programs take roughly 4 years to complete, require studying books that are thicker and denser than a telephone directory, and have multiple exams and road tests, covering all possible scenarios one might encounter while driving (emergency maneuvers, poor weather/road conditions, etc). Here, they tell you that a driver's license is a privilege, not a right, but that statement sounds rather hollow when you realize that trained chimps would be better at operating a motor vehicle than many of the drivers you'll encounter in a given day. If passing drivers ed were half as challenging as it is in Germany, there would be fewer accidents and fatalities on our roads.


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 2:07 a.m.

Ignatz: If driving is the only realistic option, then new drivers will take their drivers training pretty damned seriously if they want to earn a license, and the mobility and freedom that come with it. The part I forgot to mention is the higher cost for licensing and education in the countries that are serious about it; it costs considerably more, but that added cost results in students that are serious about driving, and therefore more motivated to pass on the first attempt. MRunner: Enforcement of such a law will be tricky, but I believe the police are properly trained to spot the telltale signs of distracted driving, as they are similar to those of DUI, which the police are already trained to spot. Naturally, there will be those who insist that the authorities must prove that the driver being cited was on their phone or eating or whatever, but we depend on the good judgment of law enforcement officers for most traffic stops already. This would just take it one step further.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 10:13 p.m.

SMC, I totally agree but I thought there is a no cellphone while driving law is on the books. Laws are only as good as they are enforced. My take is that we have way too much traffic as our roadways are often clogged. Couple that with people always in hurry and then add distraction and you are near calamity, especially in bad weather with poor traction.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

SMC, I'm afraid it's too late to make getting a license difficult. Germany has a far superior mass transit system than we do. Driving is often the only realistic option, if one has to get from point A to point B.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 7:43 p.m.

Couldn't agree more


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

people do often forget that the ability to drive is through a state-granted license and is, and never was, considered an individual right.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 7:21 p.m.

If your going to ban all cellphone use wile driving it might as well be across the board including but not limited to eating, smoking, brushing teeth, shaving, putting on makeup, talking to passengers, screaming at kids, breastfeeding, messing with ipod/mp3 players, reading the paper, using laptop, changing radio station, watching TV, etc...


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 2:10 a.m.

If banning all those behaviours is necessary for people in this country to start driving their cars properly, so be it.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:08 p.m.

@johnnya2, fyi - on the rare occasion when I have a passenger, yes, I do talk, but I find that I limit the conversation or end it, for the simple reason that it IS distracting. My attention is primarily focused on the road. I am not one of those drivers who feel the need to make prolonged eye contact with the passenger or entertain the passenger.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:42 p.m.

Lets also include driving with your dog in your lap! That's stupid!


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.

fatkitty, So are you saying you have never talked to a passenger in your car while driving? I will flat out say you are a liar. There is a huge difference between listening to the radio and talking on a cell phone. Reading the paper, putting on make up, brushing teeth, using a laptop are things that are offenses already.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 7:59 p.m.

Troy did that. Passed an ordinance so that their police can cite you for just about anything you are doing they perceive as distracting your driving. Bad law though, local govts should not alter the law from state law like Troy and Ann Arbor did with the dumb crosswalk law.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

Yes, they all should be banned. However, distraction from cell phone use can be verified, i.e. with a phone record, whereas the other distractions cannot, and could be deemed subjective. With a phone, you're either committing to a distraction or not, and it's traceable. Not so with other distractions.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 7:28 p.m.

Sounds fine to me. I've been driving for over 50 years and have had ONE accident - some twit rear ended me because the twit in front of me stopped abruptly. I just drive, and I don't do anything else when I'm behind the wheel. Y'all just better hang up and get out of my way!


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 7:14 p.m.

Ban cell phones. Period. We managed without them before, right? I'm always amazed at people yakking on the phone, one hand on the steering wheel trying to make a left hand turn, or driving at all with the phone to their head. What could be so darn important that can't wait until (1) you get home, (2) you find a place to pull over off the road, or (3) ignore the ring and check your voice mail ---- later, when you're home and parked in your garage.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:31 p.m.

I have an hour comute to and from work, I use an earpiece and talk to my mom who is out of state everyday on my way home from work. Its not any different than listening to the radio, she mainly talks and I just drive and listen. I liked the law that was trying to emerge that we can use cell phones but only with an earpiece. that way your hands are free.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 7:02 p.m.

Nanny state


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 7:10 p.m.

@Ricardo, Peregrine A little late I know, but the book is &quot;Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do and What it Says About Us&quot; by Tom Vanderbilt. It's near the end. Not the best sourcing, but that guy sources like a madman, so I'm sure it's legit.


Tue, Feb 7, 2012 : 5:26 a.m.

@M: Please cite your source.

Ricardo Queso

Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:29 p.m.

Sorry M, talking on the phone is the problem. Hands free or not, it does not make a difference.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:09 p.m.

Particularly since the act of talking on a cell phone is scientifically proven to be non-detrimental. The main factor in deaths as these is distraction. That can be dialing a cell phone or texting, no doubt, but TALKING on a phone is not a problem. I forgot though, science-based legislation is anathema, and &quot;WONT SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!&quot; always wins.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

The ban in robbing banks is a nanny state too. That does not make it bad. The job of government is to protect people from those who think they can do whatever the hell they want without regards for others. If this mom's daughter had killed another person instead would you say, well such is life.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 6:21 p.m.

So pass a bill to make it a law. What happened to tell your kid they are not allowed to use the cell phone while driving. If caught, your license gets taken away. Has worked for years in our household!


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 10:12 p.m.

Just because you pass a law, doesn't mean that people will follow it whether you are 17 or 71. Common sense is hard to legislate.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:57 p.m.

drewk When you obey the speed limit law I will obey a cell phone ban! Very few obey the speed limit laws and fewer would obey a cell phone ban.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 9:15 p.m.

I DO suggest a complete ban on cell phone use while driving. NOT a law that only targets the young teens. My original point was too many parents are afraid of imposing rules on their children that may carry consequences.


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

What happens when that parent who did not follow that rule has her kid kill somebody who IS following the rule. Oh, I guess you didn't think that far in advance. I am sure your kids have never done anything against your rules. Of course having police cite them for that rule protects the REST of us. I find the ironic part of this, is the sponsorship is by two republicans who always say they do not want the government to turn into a nanny state. Sometimes the government needs to do things to protect the rest of us, from what bad kids, or bad parents will not do


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 7:07 p.m.

I have seen adults with their hands on the cell phone completely oblivious to the fact that they are all over the place So what do you suggest?


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 6:54 p.m.

Your rule makes sense, but in this case and many others, sometimes it's too late to take the cell phone away..


Mon, Feb 6, 2012 : 6:35 p.m.

Not trying to be rude but 1) You seem pretty sure of your method and results. I for one hope you do know what your kids are doing every second of the day, and 2) It would be a good law that makes perfect sense for those of use that don't.