Efforts to curtail distracted driving are increasing in popularity throughout the country, and a bill halfway through the Wisconsin statehouse also seeks to eliminate a growing distraction.
The Wisconsin Senate voted 27-5 to approve a bill that would forbid the use of text messaging devices for all drivers. Sponsored by Sen. Alan Lasee, R-DePere, the bill – SB103 – has advanced to the Assembly for further consideration.
Violators would face the possibility of significant fines. First offenders would face up to $400 fines. For repeat offenders, fines could reach $800. If use of a texting device causes injury to another person, the fine would be up to $2,000 and/or one year in county jail. If anyone is killed, violators would face up to a $25,000 fine and/or 10 years in prison.
On Sunday, Nov. 1, New York will become the 15th state to enforce a ban on the practice of operating a motor vehicle while texting. More than a dozen states have acted this year alone with bans in Illinois, Oregon and New Hampshire slated to take effect Jan. 1.
Attempts nationwide to curb the practice of using the devices for texting while driving have intensified in recent months. A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has fueled increased interest in efforts to put a stop to use of the technology. Researchers found that drivers are more than 23 times as likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash while texting at the wheel.
The findings have energized lawmakers in numerous states to pursue legislation during their 2010 sessions to adopt texting bans. More efforts are anticipated as Congress could get involved.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, and other Democrats are pushing legislation that would require states to ban texting or e-mailing while driving or do without 25 percent of their federal highway funds.
The large majority of people who answered an informal poll on the Land Line site said they support a federal legislative push to ban texting while driving.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Wisconsin in 2009, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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