State administers teen driving restrictions

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Students under 18 face legal charges if using communication devices behind the wheel

By Kendall Harshberger

Sophomore Katherine “Katie” Katsaropoulos said she calls herself an “avid texter.”

She said she could be found frequently texting friends every day. But now if Katsaropoulos was to practice this behind a wheel of a car, she would be breaking the law.

(Click here to read the new state laws for drivers under 18.)

On July 1, texting or using a cell phone while not making a 911 emergency call became officially illegal for persons under 18 who are driving. According to Officer Gene Stilts, the penalty for texting while driving could include a warning, ticket or suspended license.

“I definitely think this law was needed and is a good thing for people, but we’ll have to wait and see if it properly takes care of the problem,” Stilts said. “I really wish they would extend this
to adults, too. I can’t really figure out what’s going through kids’ minds to make them feel like they can do stuff like this all the time and not get in trouble or worse, hurt.”

Stilts said that in the past there has not been enough enforcement for texting and driving. “Someone would probably get a warning or a ticket if they caused an accident due to texting while driving, but there really hasn’t been too much of a clear punishment,” he said.

Katsaropoulos said that she thinks it’s stupid of people to text and drive. “You know, (people) feel like they’re in control and they’re experienced enough to text behind the wheel. It’s really just sort of naïve,” she said. Katsarpopoulos also said that she’s not sure if the new laws will really stop teens from texting.

“I do think it’s a good idea, someone has to try to stop people from doing this, but people are still going to think they can get away with it. “They’ll probably put their phone under the dashboard and sneak out quick texts, even though they know it’s illegal,” she said. “Teenagers feel like they can do anything and get away with it a lot, but with stuff like this it’s really not true. You hear about car crashes due to texting and driving on the news, but people still do it,”
Katsarpopoulos said. “Nobody thinks it’ll happen to them.”

David Dowell, driver education instructor and science department chairperson, weighs in:
“I don’t believe anyone should be allowed to text message while driving, regardless of age or license status. Anything that distracts the driver from the driving task dramatically increases the driver error risk. Inattention, for even a brief time, increases the driver’s chance of
being involved in a collision. Most states are adopting similar restrictions for probationary drivers.”