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Residents debate texting ban merits

Is Michigan’s new ban on texting and driving appropriate? Some say yes, others, no. (click for larger version)
July 14, 2010 - To text or not to text – it's not a question any more. As of July 1, Michigan law instructs drivers to "keep thumbs on the wheel."

If they don't, police can pull over drivers solely for texting while driving, according to a press release sent out by State Representative Lee Gonzales, who spearheaded the new legislation. Those caught texting will be fined $100 for a first offense and $200 for subsequent ones, though an offense will not become a permanent part of the driver's record.

But is the law necessary? Doug Kutchen, an area resident, says it isn't.

"Seems silly to keep making laws that target one aspect of reckless driving. What's next? No reading while driving laws? How about no putting on makeup while driving? These all fall into the reckless category. Reckless driving laws simply need to be enforced," he said.

Kutchen added he's certainly against texting while driving, but that laws already exist to take care of any careless behavior.

Freida K. posted on The Review's Facebook page, "It's too bad 'big brother' has to step in and make laws to prevent people from doing something that is just common sense not to do when driving."

But Orion Township resident Stacey DePalma says she's "absolutely" in favor of the new law, and sees drivers texting every day in her neighborhood.

"I see it in my own neighborhood – no doubt about what they're doing. That's a guaranteed every day, several times a day. Usually it looks like a whole carload of friends driving to the beach, driver texting away," she said.

DePalma's advice to them? Knock it off.

"Stop, please stop." - Stacey DePalma on texting while driving
"Stop, please stop. We've seen pets get hit by cars, we've seen people nearly get hit at their mailboxes. Please stop," she said.

One of DePalma's biggest concerns is keeping her son, who just finished drivers' education, safe with thumbs on the wheel.

"I don't want him to go out without a cell phone, but I don't want the car to be the place he uses it," she said.

And no more car privileges if he's caught texting and driving.

"It's a deal-breaker. If I see you've been texting – I can look up records – when I know you have my car, your phone will be gone," said mom.

She and husband Chuck think the texting and driving ban will provide a foundation for future laws as other in-car technologies evolve.

Chuck works for an auto company that's putting out cars with a screen on the dash and a touch-pad in the center console with access to the internet. The feature is in higher-end cars now, and will be in all models in the next few years.

"One of the biggest concerns with this technology is safety with drivers," he said.

"I think it's an appropriate law. I think it's common sense we put down our cell phones. It's appropriate, not only for today, but as technology develops," said his wife, adding she hopes it doesn't take a tragedy before drivers put down their phones.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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