TRAVERSE CITY — Local authorities anticipate difficultly in enforcing a law designed to steer novice drivers from cell phones while they're behind the wheel.
Kelsey's Law goes into effect today and prohibits handheld cell phone use by teenagers with a level 1 graduated license -- such drivers must be accompanied by a parent or guardian over 21 years old -- and a level 2 graduated license, with which teens can drive alone but have restricted nighttime driving hours and passenger limits.
Violators can be punished with a civil infraction that carries a $100 fine, but no points will be assigned to a driver's record. Local jurisdictions can charge up to an additional $100 in court costs. That fee was yet to be determined early this week in Grand Traverse County.
The law, named in memory of a Sault Ste. Marie teenager who died in a car crash, allows for primary enforcement by police. Officers can pull over a seemingly young driver solely for talking on a phone.
Determining if a driver has a graduated license -- during which they can range between 14 years and 9 months and 17 years old -- based on appearance will be tough, Traverse City Police Capt. Brian Heffner said. An officer's basis for stopping someone will be driving-related in most cases, Heffner said.
"If the individual is not driving well and appears to be talking on the cell phone and is a young driver, then a traffic stop will be initiated," he said.
Sgt. Michelle Taylor of the Michigan State Police's Cadillac Post said troopers will be alert to seemingly young drivers who are on the phone.
Still, she expects that in the vast majority of cases police will have another reason to make a traffic stop. Taylor doesn't foresee police "going out and targeting young people on cell phones." It's their job to keep roads safe, she said, but also to apply common sense while on duty.