Bill introduced in Vermont could result in jail time for cellphone owners under 21
There are some things you cannot legally do in the U.S. until you are 21 years of age or older. You cannot insert a coin into a slot machine and pull the arm. By the same token, you cannot buy marijuana in a state where it is legal to buy weed unless you're 21. According to CNET, if a bill introduced in Vermont's legislature by state Senator John Rodgers (D) passes, you will have to be 21 to use or possess a cellphone in the state.
Pointing out how the use of cellphones by teens has lead to fatal car crashes and even bullying, Rodgers says that those under 21 "are not developmentally mature enough" to safely use a cellphone. The bill specifically states that "The use of cell phones while driving is one of the leading killers of teenagers in the United States. Young people frequently use cell phones to bully and threaten other young people, activities that have been linked to many suicides." The bill even links the use of cellphones to terrorism by stating, "The Internet and social media, accessed primarily through cell phones, are used to radicalize and recruit terrorists, fascists, and other extremists. Cell phones have often been used by mass shooters of younger ages for research on previous shootings."
The author of the bill says that even he wouldn't vote for it and it was introduced to prove a point
No state has a law requiring a cellphone user to be a certain age. However, to crack down on the number of fatalities caused by distracted drivers, 38 states do not allow a teenager to use a cellphone while behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Rodgers admits that his bill won't pass and says that he wouldn't vote for it himself. The reason why he introduced the bill was just to make a point about gun rights. The state senator is a strong supporter of the second amendment and he says that the Vermont legislature "seems bent on taking away our Second Amendment rights." And based on the wording of his bill, a cellphone seems to be more dangerous than a gun. The state legislature recently hiked the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21 and in Vermont, you must be 21 to own a firearm.
The Times Argus reports that the politician's little stunt annoyed Michelle Fay, the executive director of Voices for Vermont's Children. The organization works to promote policies that enhance the lives of children in the state. Fay called the bill a reach pointing out that most calls handled by teen drivers are from their parents and that these parents rely on their kids' handsets to get in touch with them during the course of a day. She says banning cellphones for those under 21 doesn't make sense since children can access the internet from a computer. Noting that it already is against the law in the state to text and drive, Fay says that "for teenagers, people in their car is a bigger distraction than cellphones."
"There are so many critical issues impacting the lives of working families in Vermont today, from increasing minimum wage to implementing equitable family and medical leave insurance programs to establishing an office of child advocate," Fay said. "We urge the Legislature to focus on the important work at hand instead of getting tied up in hollow diversions."
The penalties mentioned in the bill call for a fine of $1,000 and as much as one year in prison for anyone under 21 years old caught with a cellphone in their possession. Under the proposed legislation, the act of illegally possessing a cellphone would be considered a misdemeanor.