A bill prohibiting texting while driving would soon become a law in the State of Wisconsin.
According to reports, Governor Jim Doyle, gave his nod of approval into a legislation backed by different groups including the auto insurance industry. Last January 19, a vote of 89 against 6 sealed the Senate’s version of this proposed law on a mainly bipartisan contest. The only hurdle before it could be signed by the governor is its difference between the Senate’s version of this bill to that of the Assembly which proposed a higher penalty for a second offense. Because of this, another vote is mandated as a legal process before it could be brought to Doyle for formal signing.
Among groups that supported said ban are the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association, AAA Wisconsin, and different law enforcement groups. The Wisconsin Insurance Alliance (WIA), a state trade association of property and casualty insurance companies, also backed its approval. WIA’s primary purpose is its legislative program which includes establishing legislative positions on specific bills which directly affects the insurance industry.
While the Senate and the Assembly version of this bill both carry a fine of up to $400 for a first offense, second time offenders in the latter’s proposal would have to pay up to $800. The senate version, however, excludes such provision.
Rep. Peter Barca, this bill’s sponsor, said that driving while texting could be compared to drunk driving because people could be killed by drivers who are texting messages. He also argued that such is “more dangerous than other offenses” thereby requiring a higher penalty.
Rep. Mike Huebsch, on the other hand, stated that teenagers would mostly likely be ones who would be ticketed under this proposed law and that most of them would not be able to afford $800. He thus appealed to “make sure the penalty is not onerous.” While some legislators argued that this ban on texting while driving is already prohibited by a statute against disorderly driving, those who are in favor stated that this prohibition would bring to the public’s attention the fact that texting is unsafe.
In a report released by the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2008 alone, nearly half-a-million sustained injuries caused by a vehicle mishap while almost 6,000 were killed. The main cause of this is driver distraction including texting.
When this law becomes effective, Wisconsin would be among 19 states which had already passed this same statute. It is expected to fully take effect seven months after Doyle had signed it. Texting while driving is seen as a safety hazard and major distraction and prohibitions on such first occurred in 2007 in the United States.