National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Nowadays, it seems like a new app or smartphone is being released every day that enables us to communicate more easily and frequently with family, friends, and oth- er loved ones. Unfortunately, we find our selves now trying to multitask while using our phones, including while driving. This tendency to multitask can make even the most mundane, everyday tasks much more dangerous to both ourselves and others on the road. In fact, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, in 2020, about 5,000 people were cited for distracted driving in Wisconsin. Moreover, according the National Highway Travc Safety Adminis tration, in 2020, about 3,000 individuals died and about 400,000 individuals were injured in car crashes that involved distracted driving nationwide.

You may be wondering why using your cell phone while driving is so dangerous if it involves taking your eyes ou the road for only a few seconds. To put it in perspective, if an individual takes their eyes ou the road for five seconds while traveling at a speed of 70 mph, they will travel 500 feet: This is the equivalent of 1.5 football fields! According to past polling, roughly 80% of people have admitted to texting behind the wheel, and 65% have admitted to taking or looking at pictures while driving. This means that, collectively, drivers are traveling the distance of many, many football fields while not paying attention to their surroundings, and it only takes taking your eyes ou of the road for two seconds to double your risk of a car crash.

In 2010, Wisconsin banned any form of texting while operating a vehicle. Since then, Wisconsin has continued to move forward with expanding and updating laws to make our roads a safer place for everyone. For example, no driver may use a hand-held mobile device while driving through a work zone. Additionally, cell phone use is prohibited for those who are operating a vehicle under a probationary license or an instruction permit.

This Session, I once again co-authored legislation, Assembly Bill 338, that would ban the use of hand-held mobile device and cell phones, except while reporting an emergency or while using a hands-free device. This legislation is incredibly important as beyond texting, we are witnessing people now use their phone to check their email, the weather, and even video chat with their friends. Currently, 24 other states ban using cell phones while driving, and I will continue to do what I can to do the same in Wisconsin.

By taking steps to update our laws and provide continual education on the dangers of texting while driving, we will make our roads safer for everyone on the road, whether cyclists, drivers, workers, or others. I know it can be tempting to check a text or look at a picture, but please, "Drive now, and text later." Another person's life, along with your own, is absolutely worth waiting until you are safely out of your car to check your phone – Not only is it the law, but it saves lives.

April 26, 2022