The law "strikes our hearts in terms of making a difference in people's lives," the Republican governor said. He was joined at the bill signing by the family of Kelsey Raffaele, a 17-year-old from the Upper Peninsula town of Sault Ste. Marie who in the winter of 2010 veered into an oncoming vehicle on a slippery road while talking on her phone.
The law takes effect in late March and applies to holders of Level 1 licenses, who must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or another driver at least 21 years old. It also covers Level 2 licenses, which allow driving alone with limits on hours and carrying of young passengers.
A violation is a civil infraction and will not result in points being added to a driver's record.
Drivers with full privileges are exempted. Level 1 and 2 drivers can legally talk on a hands-free phone system integrated into their vehicles and can use a hand-held phone or to report an emergency.
"I know that Kelsey is up in heaven just clapping and screaming for joy over this because of the lives that can be saved through (her) tragic death," said Bonnie Raffaele, Kelsey's mom, who hugged the Republican governor after he signed the bill sponsored by Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City.
Snyder said the law is "very personal" to him because he also has a daughter named Kelsey who recently got her driver's license.
Thirty-two states have similar laws.
In 2010, Michigan banned all drivers from texting and driving. Asked why not prohibit adults from using a cellphone while behind the wheel, Snyder told reporters he would wait to see more data, arguing that texting and driving is a definite distraction.
Senate Bill 756 is Public Act 592 of 2012.
Read about the latest Grand Haven High School campaign to educate young drivers about distractions in Wednesday's Tribune.