PORTLAND — Jerrold Mason’s 16-year-old daughter, Rebecca, was killed in January in a crash in West Paris that police say involved an 18-year-old driver who had been drinking alcohol and texting with friends.

He was relieved Friday to learn that the Legislature had  approved a bill to increase restrictions on teenage drivers.

“This is the way government is supposed to work. Something needed to be done, and, boom, they acted on it,” Mason said. “What this has done is put teeth into the law to make sure that teens are going to look at this” ban on texting and driving.

Many of today’s teenagers have gotten the message about the dangers of driving while texting, said Patricia Lane, owner of Lanes Driving Academy, across Stevens Avenue from Deering High School in Portland.

The bill in the Legislature would increase fines for driving and texting – by anyone – from $100 to $250.
Lane said many students tell her that their parents text while driving, so she is pleased that the increased fine would apply to drivers of all ages.

“The teenagers are more receptive, I think, than the adults are,” Lane said. “It needs to go across the board.”

At Portland High School on Friday, response to the bill was mixed.

Stephen Walsh, 14, was particularly upset with the provision extending the period of time in which newly licensed drivers who are younger than 18 cannot drive with anyone but members of their family or experienced drivers who are at least 20.

“When I get my permit, I want people in my car as soon as possible,” Walsh said as he headed to lacrosse practice.

“We need to have passengers in our car so we can have fun,” added his friend Jack Carroll, 15.

Mike McCullum, the school’s athletic director, said it’s obvious that teenagers won’t like additional restrictions on their driving privileges, but he said he supports the bill.

“We need to keep our kids safe,” he said.

Thinavysen Thach, 17, a student at Portland High, said the $250 fine will have a big impact on any teenager who has to pay it.

“They will definitely not do it again after that,” she said.

Parked outside the school to pick up her younger sister, Eleni Anderson, 18, said she supports the bill because it will keep teenagers safe.

“Of course teenagers won’t like it, but they aren’t really thinking in the long run,” she said.

Jerrold Mason told the Legislature’s Transportation Committee at a hearing Tuesday that the driver of the car in which his daughter was killed in January, 18-year-old Kristina Lowe, had two previous crashes on her record.

He said Friday that the bill, which eventually won final approval late in the day and which includes license suspensions as long as a year for repeat driving offenses by teenagers, could have kept Lowe off the road, and saved his daughter.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

[email protected]