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“We know that thousands of kids a year are dying because they’re using their phones while driving,” says Vermont senator John Rodgers. “It’s a serious problem, and I’m pleased that there’s been a lot of discussion around this issue.”

Illustration by Christina Norris

The Teen Cellphone Bill Controversy: The VOX ATL Interview With Vermont Sen. John Rodgers 

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2020 is already providing news outlets such as VOX ATL with plenty of stories to report and discuss. A WSB-TV article came out on January 9, discussing a Vermont bill that, if passed, would ban cell phone usage for anyone under the age of 21 in the state. Democratic Vermont state senator John Rodgers who introduced the bill, told Vermont’s Barre-Montpelier Times Argus newspaper: “I have no delusions that it’s going to pass. I wouldn’t probably vote for it myself.” Rodgers added that he introduced the bill to “make a point.”

To find out more about this point, VOX reporter Noel Greene and I decided to interview Sen. Rodgers and ask him more about his proposal. During an exclusive 30-minute interview with VOX ATL, here’s what Rodgers had to say about his controversial proposal that’s gotten folks across the country talking.

Vermont State Senator John Rodgers via his Vermont General Assembly webpage.

On The Point He Wanted to Make With the Proposed Bill: “My idea was basically to get people thinking about which rights they’re willing to give up in the name of safety. We know that thousands of kids a year are dying because they’re using their phones while driving. It’s a serious problem, and I’m pleased that there’s been a lot of discussion around this issue.”

On The Hands-Free Cell Phone Legislation Passed in Georgia in 2018 And Whether That Might Be a Potential Solution in Vermont: “Well, we’ve tried that and it really hasn’t worked. It is also illegal to use a handheld device in Vermont, but we know people are still using them because we’ve seen tons of accidents. Just from driving down the road, we still see people looking at their phones. I wanna be clear with you guys and your listeners that I don’t support bans of any kind. I merely wanted to get a conversation going on how we save lives and protect our freedoms.”

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On Possible Solutions Other Than a Ban To Address the Problem of Teenage Texting and Driving: “I think a lot of it goes back to education. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re ever going to be able to stop it. Nobody wants to give up any of their freedom. It’s hard to give up something that’s important to you.”

On the National Response to His Controversial Proposal: “One of the downfalls of social media is that people read headlines and little snippets and they react too quickly. They act without knowing the whole story. I would encourage everybody to be a little kinder on social media and if they see something that bothers them, they should scroll right on by it.”

After talking to Sen. Rodgers, it became clear that he knew about the many reactions to his proposed bill. It would be safe to say that he truly accomplished his goal of starting a conversation about the dangers of teenagers using their phones while driving. The bill has made national headlines, and has given Sen. Rodgers several outlets to advocate for more practical solutions to this growing problem. In these ways, his “point” has certainly been made.

To listen to Christina Norris and Noel Greene’s complete phone interview with Vermont Senator John Rodgers:


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