Civics lesson: Sixth-graders want cell phone ban for drivers in Fenton
Ten students from St. John the Evangelist Catholic School this week appealed to the Fenton City Council to put tighter restrictions on cellphone use in cars.
After spending much of the school year on the project, the students presented a 10-slide presentation to the Fenton City Council on Monday, June 9, detailing information they had found from a survey of their own classmates.
The students found and a student survey found that 92 percent of the students at the school have seen their parents text or call while driving and 87 percent thought there should be a law prohibiting cell phone use while driving.
“Those are some pretty staggering numbers,” Councilman Scott Grossmeyer said. “I hope even if this doesn’t affect your parents, it will affect your actions in the future.”
City Manager Lynn Markland said the students did a great job presenting the facts they gathered but said he’s concerned it wouldn’t work on the city level because motorists might not even know the ordinance is in place when they drive through the city.
“If something like that is to work, I think it would have to be taken up by the state government,” he said. “I don’t think the council will take it up.”
In Troy, police can pull over drivers for any distracted driving, including cell phone use by the driver but Markland said even then he’s not sure Fenton would benefit from that type of ordinance.
Markland said he’s seen studies that show that use of Bluetooth technology in cars can be just as distracting as a phone call and said he’s uncertain if banning phone use would be a good end-all for distracted driving.
In 2010, Michigan enacted a ban on texting while driving, although Fenton Police Chief Rick Aro said that’s been tough to enforce.
In fact, Fenton police haven’t issued one ticket since the ban began.
“It’s pretty difficult to prove,” he said, adding that he could only see use of it during a serious accident, where police might get a search warrant for their phone.
The students’ social studies teacher, Winston Stoody, said they worked on the report as a part of Project Citizen, which is a national program that promotes, “competent and responsible participation in local and state government.”
He’s had many classes of students work on different projects through Project Citizen but said often it focuses on too large of a scale.
“Of all the presentations we’ve made, this one had the best chance,” he said.
Although Markland seemed uncertain if the council would consider it, Stoody said he hopes the students continue to attend meetings in the summer and push for what they believe in.
After the presentation, the students said they were proud of their work and think they left the council impressed.
“They were impressed that people our age were involved with society,” Bryce Murray, 12, said.
Although they are unsure if it will lead to any local changes, they were happy to bring their findings to the city.
“We knew we worked hard and it paid off,” Daniella Lahoud, 11, said.
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